Another Sachin Tendulkar [ Images ] masterclass (read century) and a solid debut by Suresh Raina [ Images ] helped India [ Images ] give a fitting reply to Sri Lanka's [ Images ] mammoth total, on day three of the second Test, at the SSC Ground in Colombo on Wednesday.
The visitors amassed 382 for four by close of play (after 108 overs) on the third day, still 260 runs adrift of the home side's total, but having virtually made sure that they won't follow-on like in the opening Test.
Tendulkar (108 not out) and Raina (66 not out) combined well for an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership that, besides yielding 141 valuable runs, gave the Indian innings the impetus it so desperately needed after the loss of a few quick wickets.
In the process, the 'Master Blaster' registered his 48th Test hundred, his first in Sri Lanka in 11 years, while Raina became the 22nd Indian to score a half century on Test debut.
Tendulkar's knock was inclusive of 14 hits to the fence and a huge one over it, while Raina helped himself to eight boundaries.
But none of the home bowlers looked threatening on a placid wicket, where the batsman's dismissal had more to do with him getting impatient, and the bowling trying to ensure the same rather than focussing on pitching it in the right areas.
And going by the manner in which the bowlers have struggled to make any impact on the SSC wicket, it would suffice to say this Test is headed for a draw.
Unless, of course...
Morning session: (78 runs, 25 overs, three wickets)
Resuming at 95 for no loss, India did well early on. Sehwag (99) hit successive boundaries off Dilhara Fernando in the day's second over, the first of which helped them cross the 100-run mark.
It was the third century partnership between Sehwag and Murali Vijay [ Images ] (58) -- the highest thus far being the 221 runs they put up for the opening wicket against the same opposition at the Brabourne last year..
Vijay, meanwhile, survived a huge shout for leg before off Fernando, though television replays proved umpire Daryl Harper was right -- the batsman had indeed got an inside edge.
The Tamil Nadu opener, after a tentative start, broke the shackles with a sweetly-timed boundary towards fine leg off Angelo Mathews [ Images ].
Mendis was introduced into the attack in the eighth over of the day and in his third over almost gave Sri Lanka an early breakthrough.
Sehwag first cut him past backward point for a boundary and in the very next ball was dropped in the same region by Thilan Samaraweera [ Images ].
Six balls later, fortune was on Sehwag's side again.
The batsman was forced to play a well-directed bouncer at the rib cage. However, the ball fell just short of Sangakkara at leg gully.
Vijay, meanwhile, reached his second Test fifty with a boundary off Mendis.
Then India lost their way completely.
Sehwag's luck finally went against him when Suraj Randiv was introduced into the attack.
The flamboyant batsman was stumped by Prasanna Jayawardene [ Images ] off Randiv in what was the latter's first over of the day.
It was Randiv's first Test wicket, and one that he will always cherish.
Vijay (58) was then trapped in front by Mendis in the very next over to ensure double celebration for the home team.
Randiv then struck again, getting Rahul Dravid [ Images ] (3) out leg before to add to India's woes.
The opening wicket partnership yielded India 165 runs. The second wicket stand was just four. And only four runs came for the third wicket as well.
At lunch (after 43 overs), the visitors had made 173 for three, after being 165 for no loss at one stage.
Post-lunch session: (70 runs, 30 overs, one wicket)
Following the slump in the latter part of the morning session, Tendulkar tried to ease the pressure in the post-lunch session, hitting a couple of boundaries off Randiv.
However, when on 29, he also had a stroke of luck as Prasanna Jayawardene dropped him off Fernando.
Tendulkar expressed his gratitude by flicking the next ball to the fine-leg boundary.
Laxman too edged a Randiv delivery but to India's good fortune it landed in front of Jayawardene at slips. The veteran also appeared to have some trouble facing Dammika Prasad.
Nontheless, he and Laxman tried to forge a partnership and carry forward the Indian challenge, till Mendis struck.
Laxman, who never looked comfortable during his stay at the crease, was trapped in front just before the tea break.
The veteran had put 68 runs with Tendulkar (39 not out) in a fourth-wicket stand that helped India recover from the mid-innings slump late in the morning session.
Raina survived a huge leg before appeal (off Mendis) soon after he arrived.
At tea, (after 73 overs), the visitors had put up 243 for four, needing a further 200 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Post-tea session: (139 runs, 35overs, no wickets)
It was slow progress for India early on in the final session.
With four of their top order batsmen dismissed and a long tail to follow, it was palpable that they played safe.
And it was Tendulkar, dropped at 29 by the stumper, who carried Indian hopes forward with yet another half century, his 56th in this form of the game.
He reached his fifty in grand style, smashing Randiv over long-on for a huge six. He celebrated the same cutting the final ball of that over to the point boundary.
Raina took a leaf out of Tendulkar's book.
It took the Uttar Pradesh [ Images ] player close to a 100 ODIs to eventually find a place in the Test team. And once he had achieved that, he wanted obviously to prove his worth.
The debutant hit successive boundaries off Prasad, the second of those shots ensuring the 50-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Another couple of boundaries in succession by Tendulkar (off Randiv) helped India cross the 300-run mark.
The duo played the ball on merit, and as the new ball was taken in the 97th over, Raina hit an exquisite cover drive off Randiv to register his maiden Test fifty.
Two runs off the next ball brought about the 100-run partneship for the fifth wicket.
Meanwhile, Tendulkar inched closer to yet another Test century with two boundaries off Randiv.
It didn't take him long to achieve the by-now-familiar milestone.
The final session of the day's play, having started on a cautious note, eventually yielded the most runs for India.
And, more importantly, India didn't lose a wicket in these two hours.