COLOMBO, Aug 29: Cheteshwar Pujara marked his comeback with a gritty unbeaten century as India recovered from an early slump to reach a decent 292/8 in their first innings of the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka here today.
The 27-year-old Pujara (135 batting) notched up his seventh Test century as he anchored the Indian innings brilliantly to take them to a respectable total after being reduced to 119/5 at one stage on an engrossing second day.
Pujara found an able ally in tailender Amit Mishra (59) as the duo put on a resolute 104-run partnership, the highest eighth wicket stand on this ground, which allowed India to claw back into the game.
Ishant Sharma (2) was giving Pujara company when stumps were drawn early because of rain and a wet outfield resulting in the loss more than 12 overs.
Resuming at the overnight score of 50/2, India lost the wickets of captain Virat Kohli (18), Rohit Sharma (26), Stuart Binny (0), Naman Ojha (21) and Ravichandran Ashwin (5) in quick succession but Pujara and Mishra frustrated the hosts.
For Sri Lanka, Dhammika Prasad (4 for 83) was the pick of the bowlers, while Nuwan Pradeep, Angelo Mathews Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal chipped in with a wicket apiece.
The first session clearly belonged to the hosts as they took two wickets for 69 runs and also claimed the honours in the second session by reducing India to 220/7.
However, the visitors relied on Pujara�s temperament and application to rebuild the innings while Mishra also showed that he was no pushover with the bat.
Pujara hit 13 boundaries during his long vigil and made his comeback into the Test team a memorable one after a four- Test layoff.
The day began 15 minutes early as stipulated for the remainder of this Test match, and the Sri Lankan bowlers were immediately on top.
Dhammika and Pradeep got good purchase from the still- fresh pitch. The former looked especially threatening throughout the morning session and was really unlucky not to have picked up more wickets.
He had two huge shouts for LBW against Virat Kohli (18) in the very first over of the day, and the first one a very close call, but umpire Nigel Llong did not accept the bowler�s appeals.
At the other end, Pradeep also made Pujara hop and skip as the ball took off from a good length, displaying the differentiating bounce in the pitch. India�s scoring rate was very slow of course as it was a tough first hour�s play, with only six runs coming off the first five overs.
India 1st innings: KL Rahul b Prasad 2, C Pujara batting 135, A Rahane lbw b Pradeep 8, V Kohli c Perera b Mathews 18, R Sharma c Tharanga b Prasad 26, S Binny lbw b Prasad 0, N Ojha c Tharanga b Kaushal 21, R Ashwin c Perera b Prasad 5, A Mishra st Perera b Herath 59, I Sharma not out 2. Extras: (lb-2, w-3, nb-6, pen-5) 16. Total: (For 8 wickets; 95.3 overs) 292. Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-14, 3-64, 4-119, 5-119, 6-173, 7-180, 8-284. Bowling: Prasad 23.3-4-83-4, Pradeep 22-6-52-1, Mathews 13-6-24-1, Herath 25-3-81-1, Kaushal 12-2-45-1. � PTI