Colombo:Sachin Tendulkar cracked his 48th Test century to lead a spirited fightback as India recovered from three quick jolts to keep themselves afloat in the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Tendulkar (108 not out) showed great character and temperament to score his first century on Sri Lankan soil in 11 years as he anchored the innings brilliantly to steer the visitors to 382 for for four at close on the third day, still needing 61 runs to avoid the follow on.
Virender Sehwag missed his century by just one run while debutant Suresh Raina was the other notable performer with a sparkling unbeaten 66.
It was a much-improved display by the Indians who made sure that there was no repeat of Galle where the famed batting order had succumbed rather tamely.
Raina was giving Tendulkar company at stumps on a day which saw 287 runs being scored and four wickets falling at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground.
India's first objective will be to avoid the follow and then come as close as possible to Sri Lanka's mammoth first innings total of 642 for four declared.
If India carry on in the same way tomorrow, a draw appears to be the only result possible as the track has shown no signs of breaking up.
After Sehwag provided the early fireworks, it was champion batsman Tendulkar who stole the spotlight with a fine exhibition of strokeplay and application to save the blushes for India who were in a spot of bother at one stage.
Tendulkar made the most of a dropped chance when he was on 29, wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene spilling a simple catch off Dilhara Fernando. But that was the only blemish from the star batsman as he gradually opened up to unleash a flurry of strokes.
The champion batsmen had last scored a century in Sri Lanka in 1999 at the same venue.
Resuming at the overnight score of 95 for no loss in response to Sri Lanka's mammoth 642 for four declared, the Indians got off to a solid start with Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay putting on a 165-run opening partnership.
But the scrip changed dramatically just half an hour before the lunch break with the visitors losing Sehwag (99) Vijay (58) and Rahul Dravid (3) in quick succession with debutant off-spinner Suraj Randiv striking twice.
Sehwag, who resumed at overnight 64, looked set for a big innings but missed out on his 21st Test century by attempting a reckless shot.
Ajantha Mendis gave the second shock to the visitors by trapping the well-set Vijay and Dravid got out in the same fashion off Randiv just two overs before lunch.
Everything was going on well for India until half an hour before the close of morning session with Sehwag and Vijay negotiating the Sri Lankan bowlers with a mix of caution and aggression.
Sehwag went for a big shot dancing down the track off Randiv, who was introduced in the session for the first time, but failed to contact the ball and Prasanna Jayawardene carried out a simple stumping.
Sehwag, who was dropped on 89, made his 99 from 101 balls with the help of 15 fours and along with Vijay raised 165 runs for the opening wicket.
Vijay, who was also looking solid, fell Leg before to a Mendis googly which jabbed back in and the batsman was dead plumb while trying to go on the backfoot.
Dravid, who has not contributed much in this series, was the next batsman to return to the pavilion off a superb Randiv delivery which spun from outside off and skidded to the batsman's pads.
From a comfortable 165 for no loss, the Indians suddenly slumped to 173 for three, raising fears of another batting collapse.
The seasoned duo of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman then shored up the the innings by batting cautiously against the lankan bowlers on the placid Sinhalese Sports Club ground.
The experienced pair almost batted through the second session but Ajantha Mendis broke the slow 68-run stand by trapping the stylish Hyderabadi 10 minutes before tea break.
Laxman (29) and Tendulkar dug in and went about their business slowly and raised a stand of 68-run to deny the Lankan bowlers any success for almost two hours.
The duo slowed down the proceedings by playing a lot of dot balls and relied on ones and twos to keep the scoreboard moving.
Laxman was lucky as his edges, off spinner Suraj Randiv and paceman Dammika Prasad, fell short of fielders.
Laxman finally got out as he failed to read a Mendis googly and was caught in front of the wicket.