Colombo: India were eyeing their first series win on Sri Lankan soil in 22 years by reducing the hosts to a shaky 67 for 3 after setting a daunting victory target of 386 in the third and final cricket Test here today.
Resuming at the precarious overnight score of 21 for 3, India did well to score 274 in their second innings and then leave the islanders miserably placed on an eventful penultimate day.
India now need to take the remaining seven wickets on a fifth day track to record a historic Test series win. India had last won a Test series in Sri Lanka under Mohammed Azharuddin's captaincy with a 1-0 verdict in 1993.
It was yet another absorbing day of Test cricket as India began the day by consolidating their position to score 274 in the second innings with useful contributions from R Ashwin (58), Rohit Sharma (50), Stuart Binny (49), Amit Mishra (39) and Naman Ojha (35). For Sri Lanka, Dhammika Prasad (4/69) and Nuwan Pradeep (4/62) were the main wicket takers.
The good work by the lower order batsmen was carried on by the seam bowlers who dismissed Upul Tharanga (0), Dimuth Karunaratne (0) and Dinesh Chandimal (18) in quick succession to give the team a firm control of the match.
Kaushal Silva (24) and captain Angelo Mathews (22) were at the crease when the stumps were drawn on a day which saw as many as 10 wickets fall and some heated exchange of words between the rival players. Sri Lanka still trail by 319 runs with seven wickets in hand.
Sri Lanka's highest ever successful run chase on home soil in the fourth innings has been 352 against South Africa in Colombo in 2006. Recently, Pakistan had scored 382 for three against Sri Lanka to win a Test match.
Set a daunting victory target, Sri Lankan innings began on a disastrous note as Ishant Sharma (2/14) and Umesh Yadav (1/32) produced a hostile opening spell to knock off the top order.
Sri Lanka will have to bat out of their skin on the fifth day on a deteriorating Sinhalese Sports Club track to draw the match and prevent India from clinching the series with a 2-1 margin.