Thilan Samaraweera, the Sri Lanka batsman, concedes his side must remove Virender Sehwag cheaply this morning if they are to avoid being on the receiving end of another masterclass from the dashing India right-hander. Sehwag hit 17 boundaries in an unbeaten 97 from 87 balls to lead India to 180 for two at stumps on the second day of the third Test in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings score of 425.
He had a let off on 52 when Angelo Mathews dropped a quick return catch and he could make the home side pay a heavy price today. "I think he [Sehwag] is the key man to get out," said Samaraweera, who had earlier scored a chanceless 137 not out, his 12th Test century. "He's like playing on a different wicket. If he gets out, it looks like a totally different wicket. And a lot of things turn around. We are leading by 250 runs. If we can take a couple of wickets ... we are in the game."
The pitch is likely to become increasingly difficult to bat on as it is showing signs of turn. The hosts started the second day on 293 for four and scored 132 runs midway through the middle session for six wickets on a P Sara Oval surface that provided turn and bounce for the spinners. Pragyan Ojha, the India left-armer, returned the best figures of four for 115. "This is one of the best days for the bowling group [on the tour], because the way we planned we executed," Ojha said. "We planned it out, and we were very strict on things. We were just sticking to our basics."
In India's reply, Lasith Malinga gave Sri Lanka the breakthrough when Murali Vijay lofted an easy catch to mid-on with his score on 14. Mathews then got rid of Rahul Dravid lbw for 23, but Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar have so far added 88 for the third wicket. Samaraweera had reached his century in the final over before lunch, moving from 99 to 104 courtesy of an overthrow as he pushed the ball for a single to square leg but the return to the bowler's end ricocheted off the stumps and sped to the boundary.