Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, has praised his bowlers for their consistency and discipline on a flat SSC pitch after they captured five wickets to reduce India to 669 for 9 on the fourth day in Colombo.
"What we are happy about is that we stuck to our game plan and have been able to bowl to those fielding plans," Bayliss said. "Everyone knows it's been a very good batting wicket and a very difficult one for the bowlers to bowl on. We've been striving for over a period of time to be consistent and have discipline and we've shown that.
"Some of the plans may not have worked, but at least we bowled according to those plans and made it as difficult as possible for the Indians to score. It's not often that you can get the Indians for less than 300 for two days in a row. Hats off to our boys, they've done pretty well to actually take nine wickets. It's a great effort. On the wicket out there, every time you pitch it up, it went for four. It was pretty silly to keep pitching the ball up, so we thought we make it difficult for them to score and hopefully they make a mistake and get out."
Bayliss said the game would have taken a different turn had wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene held on to a catch off Sachin Tendulkar, when the batsman was on 29. He went on to score his fifth double-century and ensured India averted the follow-on. "When we took those three quick wickets, and if we were able to take another one or two, the game could have been different," Bayliss said. "We put one catch down when he [Tendulkar] was on 29 and, when we looked back on it, it was a reasonably easy chance. By no means blaming the 'keeper, who is one of the best in the world, he's a done a great job for us in the past.
"If we had been able to take that catch who knows what might have happened. The great players probably don't get any more luck than anyone else. They take advantage of that luck and he's [Tendulkar] certainly done that in this match."
Bayliss also said that it was unfair to compare the bowlers comprising the present bowling attack with Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan. "It's a bit hard to judge the bowlers on their performances in this match. We played on this wicket before. It's been flat and the great Murali has struggled to take wickets as well.
"Sri Lanka won't take as many wickets in a hurry like they have done in the past with Murali in the team. This is a very flat wicket on the last two days and we got two young bowlers [Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv], who bowled extremely well with two and four wickets, which is a good performance."
Bayliss said a bit of extra grass on the pitch would have been ideal for the bowlers. "You will be surprised how much the ball will turn, there might be a little bit of movement and pace for the fast bowlers, and the batters would enjoy the ball coming onto the bat a little more. The wicket will have a little more for the spinners to grip on to."
Bayliss said Sri Lanka would go out and get some batting practice on the final day and keep the Indians on the field for as long as possible ahead of the deciding Test at the P Sara Stadium.