Mumbai:Tillakaratne Dilshan cracked a fluent 109 as Sri Lanka recovered from three quick top-order jolts to leave the crucial third and final Test against India evenly poised at the end of the opening day.
Electing to bat, Dilshan stole the limelight with his 11th Test century as the visitors recovered from a jittery 188 for four to reach a comfortable 366 for eight at close on the opening day at the Brabourne stadium which saw Test cricket returning to the venue after 36 years.
The Indians had themselves to blame for allowing the Lankans off the hook as the bowling lacked consistency to put pressure on the batsmen who managed to score at a brisk pace right through the day on a testing Brabourne track.
The Lankans got off to a good start but slipped to 188 for four from a comfortable 128 for one with captain Kumar Sangakkara (18), Mahela Jayawardene (29) and Thilan Samaraweera (1) returning to the pavilion in quick succession.
Angelo Mathews (86) and Muthiah Muralitharan (0) were at the crease at stumps on an eventful day which saw the Indians bowling well only in patches.
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The 33-year-old Dilshan again tormented the Indians with his second century in the series and his sixth this year while Tharanga Paranavitana (53) and Prasanna Jayawardene (43) were the other notable contributors.
Dilshan was the victim of a rather dubious decision by umpire Nigel Llong who upheld an appeal for a catch by Murali Vijay at forward short leg off Harbhajan Singh. Television replays showed that Dilshan had made no contact with the bat.
But the Indians could not capitalise on this huge slice of luck as Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene and Kulasekara scored at a brisk pace much to the frustration of the hosts.
Harbhajan Singh was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 4/107 while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha chipped in with two wickets, giving away 97 runs in the process.
Sri Lankan captain Sangakkara won the toss for the first time and expectedly decided to bat first.
The two Lankan openers Dilshan and Paranavitana batted in a forthright manner and also brought up their best first wicket partnership in the rubber, 93 in 19.5 overs.
Off spinner Harbhajan Singh, brought in early into the attack just before the first hour, struck a big blow when he induced the left-handed Paranavitana to drive and edge to Rahul Dravid at slip just 25 minutes before lunch.
Paranavitana, playing in his 10th Test after making his debut in February this year against Pakistan, on-drove and square-drove S Sreesanth for fours in successive overs.
Dilshan then took Sreesanth apart in the latter's fifth over, hooking the Kerala pacer over square leg nonchalantly for a six and then pulled the bowler ferociously from outside the off stump for a four in successive balls.
But the islanders suffered a few jolts in the post-lunch session to slip to 188 for four before recovering to 213 for four wickets at tea.
Dilshan and all rounder Angelo Mathews put on a crucial fifth wicket partnership.
The duo steadied the Lankan innings that was floundering on a wicket affording slow turn after the quick dismissals of Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera in the space of four balls in the second hour of play during the post-lunch session.
India struck thrice on either side of the first hour of play to send back ? Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara (18), Jayawardene (29) and Samaraweera (1) to take firm control of the proceedings before Dilshan and Mathews steadied the Lankan boat.
The first to go was Sangakkara, unbeaten on 10 at lunch in a healthy total of 117 for one, who feathered a catch down the leg side against Pragyan Ojha to give the left arm spinner his first strike in the fourth over after lunch.
It was an irresponsible way to get out but the Lankan innings then got steadied by Dilshan, who curbed his early morning aggression to some extent, and former skipper Mahela, as the duo put on a half-century stand for the third wicket to take the score past 150.
The first hour in the post-lunch period produced 62 runs in 17 overs and things were looking good once again for the visitors when the home team struck twice in quick succession to wrest back the initiative.
Sreesanth, who was very expensive in his first spell of five overs, was brought back into the attack from the Churchgate end and broke the stand by baiting Mahela with a short ball that the classy batsman hooked down the throat of long leg fielder Virender Sehwag.
The senior Jayawardene had looked quite good during his short stay of 67 minutes at the crease while making 29 with four fours.
Lanka were dealt another big blow when Samaraweera was caught bat-pad at short leg by Murali Vijay, a dolly catch, off a sharply turning ball from Harbhajan Singh.
These two wickets put the visitors firmly on the back foot before Dilshan and Mathews prevented further damage before tea.