Sachin Tendulkar led India's attempt to stay alive in the series on an attritional day at the SSC. Just when it seemed the bat would dominate for the third successive day, the Sri Lankan spinners brought the Test back to life by rattling the Indian top order. But Tendulkar, with support from VVS Laxman and debutant Suresh Raina, made a determined century to restore stability to the Indian innings and took them closer to the follow-on target.
The conditions were still batsman-friendly, but the Sri Lankan bowlers varied their pace and lengths with greater skill than their Indian counterparts to create chances. However, India survived a couple of nervy moments that helped turn the third day, only slightly, in their favour. When on 29, Tendulkar, rather inexplicably, tried to upper-cut Dilhara Fernando and was dropped by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene. And an appeal against Raina was turned down in the final session when he was struck on the pads by a straighter delivery from Tillakaratne Dilshan; replays suggested the ball would have gone on to hit leg.
Charged, yet again, with the responsibility of reviving the Indian innings, Tendulkar batted with assuredness amid the pressure. The spinners didn't extract much turn though they did generate good bounce, but Tendulkar adapted well, opting to deal with the length deliveries outside off with caution while dealing harshly with ones pitched short. He struck Suraj Randiv for seven boundaries through point, cover and past slip, and comfortably picked off deliveries bowled on his pads for a couple more. The one time he did step out to the spinners was when he brought up his half-century, a clean strike over long-on.
Tendulkar played the ball late on a slowish track, and targeted Randiv while approaching his century, reaching the landmark, his 48th in Tests, with a sweep through square leg and put India's survival plans back on track.