There had been surprise in the Sri Lanka camp about how quickly the SSC pitch become a vipers' nest, but a recalibration of Sri Lanka's batting strategy helped yield better returns in the second innings.
Sri Lanka had collapsed to 183 in 49.4 overs, not long after the likes of Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja struck fluent half-centuries for India. But faced with a rapidly-deteriorating pitch, Sri Lanka's batsmen still managed 386 in the second dig - by far their best innings in the series. Dinesh Chandimal, the captain, said the sweep shot was key to that comparative success.
"After the second day's play we felt it was tough to bat on the pitch," Chandimal said. "We tried to play straight but we couldn't score well. Before the second innings we had a discussion and had a chat about what was the best way to score runs. Everyone agreed that the best way moving forward was by using the sweep and reverse sweep shots heavily. We executed really well in the second innings, and we fought back hard."
What was clear, however, was that India's spinners gained much more assistance from the surface than Sri Lanka's had. Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin took one five-wicket haul apiece in this match, and had begun to make the ball spit off the track as early as the second evening. This is after Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Malinda Pushpakumara - Sri Lanka's three frontline spinners - had collectively conceded 457 for 7.
"We were surprised as well because the pitch started turning more than we thought - more than it was in the first one-and-a-half days," Chandimal said. "At the moment we have in attack two experienced bowlers - Rangana Herath and Dilruwann Perera. We had a wicket that turned and we expected them to come, into the game. But we couldn't execute those plans."
If Sri Lanka emerged from the match with a little pride in-tact, that was largely due to their second-innings century makers. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis shared a 191-run stand, which is the highest partnership by or in Sri Lanka, when a team is following on. They were also Sri Lanka's first centuries of the series. "It was a really good effort by both Kusal and Dimuth," Chandimal said. "I still feel that everyone fought very hard but we kept losing wickets."
Before the match, Chandimal had recoiled at suggestions his team could lose the series 0-3. The very mild upshot of losing this game inside four days, is that Sri Lanka have a little more time to focus on the Pallekele Test, which begins on August 12.
"We have four days to train now," Chandimal said. "We try to win every match. Even over the next few days we are hoping to spend a lot of time and energy in training. If we can win even one match against a team like this, we will be able to really boost the confidence in the team. They are the No. 1 team. The staff and everyone else will be really committed in training."