Mahela Jayawardene added spark to a dead match and led Sri Lanka to 168 for four, in reply to India's 167 all out in the rain-interrupted first Test at the M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Tuesday.
By doing better than the hosts in bowling and batting, Sri Lanka earned some psychological points in the drawn encounter. The first three days of the match were washed out and play began on Monday only at 1500 IST.
Jayawardene scored a brilliant 76 from 80 balls, with the help of 14 fours and a six, and looked the best batsman on show from both sides.
Earlier in the day, Chaminda Vaas (4-20), who was later named man of the match, and Muttiah Muralitharan (2-60) rocked the Indian batting, which was done in as much by the batsmen's negative approach. True, the track was difficult to bat on, but it wasn't unplayable, as the Sri Lankan batsmen showed later.
Sachin Tendulkar fell way short of a much-anticipated record-breaking hundred, as he was trapped leg before wicket by Muralitharan on 22.
Debutant wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the only home batsman who provided some action, scoring a positive 30 from 54 balls.
Morning session: (36.3 overs, 63 runs, six wickets)
Tendulkar's record-breaking 35th hundred was on everybody's mind when the first Test resumed at the M A Chidambaram stadium on the fifth day. If there is one thing he needed on a devilish pitch to get to the landmark, it was ample luck.
In the second over of the morning, Vaas induced a faint edge off Tendulkar, as the batsman tried to flash the ball away from his body. But wicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkara, who was standing up to the wicket, failed to hold on to the catch.
The master batsman got another life on 16 when a bat-pad chance off Muttiah Muralitharan was spilled at forward short-leg. The off-spinner kept the batsmen guessing by pushing through some quicker ones, and kept a predominantly middle and leg stump line.
Rahul Dravid, resuming his innings on 30, though was not as fortunate as he fell to a close caught behind call. The Indian captain, on 32, pushed forward to a delivery moving away, and umpire Mark Benson adjudged that a faint edge had carried to Sangakkara. (97-3, 37.1)
Vaas bowled an outstanding spell in the morning too; the figures 7-7-0-1 told the story. Following the Glenn McGrath mantra, he "bored" the batsman with his accurate leg-cutters (to the right-handed batsmen).
Sri Lanka were further playing on the batsmen's nerve by spreading the field rather than clogging the catching positions. Vaas bowled with only one slip and a short mid-off and dried out the runs for India.
The visitors' stranglehold was evident as India could eke out only 12 runs in the first hour off 13.3 overs. VVS Laxman, known for his fluent batting, took 27 balls to get off the mark.
Despite being given little to cheer about, the crowds kept up the spirits and blew the horns louder even as Laxman and Tendulkar - their proclaimed "God" -struggled to string the runs.
"Rain has already disappointed us, Sachin you don't," read a banner.
Unfortunately for them, disappointment was just around the corner. After painstakingly taking his score to 22 off 125 balls, Tendulkar fell leg before wicket to Muralitharan. On pitching the ball outside off, Murali had the ball turn sharply into the batsman and slap the pads in front of middle.
That Tendulkar was playing well into the crease may have prompted Benson to uphold the bowler's appeal. (108-4, 49.1)
The challenge was on for Sourav Ganguly. After Tendulkar, he was the hottest topic of the day. It weren't the conditions he would like to come out and show his form. And yet even if he would play well and score some runs it would hardly alter India's standing in the series.
Muralitharan now had his tail up and gave Ganguly a few anxious moments with sharp turn and variable bounce.
Chennai, known to be the most sporting crowd in India, stood up to support Ganguly whole-heartedly.
Then again, even as the batsmen defended stoically, Laxman and Ganguly showed they still were poor runners between the wickets. Having survived a misunderstanding once, the two got into another one.
Laxman rolled his wrists to steer the ball to mid-wicket and started out for a run. Ganguly, at the other end, walked a few paces and stopped, making Laxman scamper back to his crease. The right-hander was at least a foot short when Sangakkara whipped off the bails. (109-5, 53.1)
Ganguly didn't survive too long either. He pushed at Dilhara Fernando on the front foot, failed to keep the ball down and Tillekaratne Dilshan at short point took a sharp diving catch. (117-6, 56.4)
The former captain's return to the Indian team was curtailed to five, from 24 balls.
Irfan Pathan, being talked about as the next all-rounder for India, also couldn't add much flavour with the bat. He gave an easy caught and bowled wicket to Muralitharan. (118-7, 57.3)
The surprise package of Indian batting was debutant wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It was remarkable the way the Jharkhand batsman responded positively to a difficult track after a highly successful ODI series against Lanka on placid pitches.
He played Muralitharan confidently and was the only player to step down the track to the off-spinner and loft him over mid-off for four. Dhoni repeated the act, hoisting Muralitharan to long-on the next time.
It was the first time since Sehwag's wicket on Monday, that an Indian batsman was making the bowlers play his game. Though it was a subdued, watchful innings from the batsman, he held the edge over the bowlers and grabbed every opportunity given to him.
India lost Ajit Agarkar on four (128-8, 62.2) to a run-out. But with Dhoni at the wicket, Anil Kumble also played a positive knock and helped to notch a 25-run ninth-wicket partnership in 41 balls.
The hosts ended the morning session at 153 for eight, with Sri Lankan bowlers Vaas and Muralitharan hogging the spotlight.
Vaas didn't concede a single run in his nine overs in the morning and took a wicket, while Muralitharan grabbed two wickets for 60 runs. Leg-spinner Malinga Bandara also kept the batsmen in check in his nine overs, five of which were maidens.
India innings: (4.2 overs, 14 runs, 2 wickets)
India's demise was quick after lunch.
Anil Kumble, who swept Bandara well for a boundary on resumption of play, was caught and bowled by Chaminda Vaas for nine. As Kumble tried to drive the ball down the track, the bottom hand came into play to lob the ball and give Vaas a return catch. (159-9, 72.2)
With only one wicket to go, Dhoni went on the aggressive.
He hit Bandara for a four through covers, but fell victim to a similar delivery off the very next ball. The leg-spinner tossed the ball up and Dhoni tried to hit it over the in-field, but erred in his timing and lofted it straight to Avishka Gunawardene at long-off.
Dhoni scored 30 from 54 balls, with six fours, as India were shot out for 167, their lowest total against Sri Lanka in Tests.
Vaas, with four wickets for 14 runs, led the visitors' attack over an over-cautious batting line-up.
Sri Lanka innings: (20 overs, 81 runs, 2 wickets)
Irfan Pathan struck in the very first over of the Sri Lanka innings with the wicket of Gunawardene.
The left-hander, who opened the innings with Sangakkara, edged a delivery going away from him after pitching close on the off-stump. Wicketkeeper Dhoni pocketed an easy catch as Gunawardene was out on four. (5-1, 1)
But the Indian bowlers made a crucial error by keeping their length shorter. The difference in lengths bowled by Vaas and Fernando at the start of the Indian innings on Monday had made it clear that the pacemen needed to keep the ball full to take advantage of the slow track.
As Agarkar and Pathan struggled to maintain a consistent line and length, the batsmen knocked the ball around comfortably and also got the odd boundary.
Sourav Ganguly was introduced into the attack in the eleventh over to replace Pathan (5-0-23-1). But the former India captain failed to make any impact with his medium-pace bowling, conceding 16 runs in two overs.
By the fifteenth over, India employed spin at both ends. Although the move came later than anticipated, Kumble straight away got into the groove and picked the wicket of Sangakkara in his first over.
The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper was trapped leg before wicket on 30 (52b) as the ball kept straight after pitching on middle-stump. (62-2, 15)
Sangakkara's wicket ended the 57-run partnership for the second wicket with Jayawardene.
Kumble, who had taken 42 wickets in six Tests before this, had batted a fair deal and read the pitch well, bowling within the stumps. With the ball still fairly hard, it didn't afford a lot of turn but the leg-spinner made up for it with tight bowling.
Harbhajan, on the other hand, tried to experiment too much. Jayawardene, who had settled well by now, punished his flighted deliveries by taking him for 12 runs in the 20th over. The elegant right-hander hoisted him over the mid-wicket fence for the first six of the match and followed it up with a cut past backward point for four.
At the end of the second session, Sri Lanka were still the team on top, as the batsmen capitalized on the outstanding bowling performance by the visiting bowlers in the morning.
After tea, Jayawardene unleashed a flurry of boundaries and completed his fifty with a pull for four off Pathan. The Sri Lankan batsman used his feet very well to the spinners, never letting them dictate terms.
The track had started to look innocuous once the Lankans came out to bat and they maintained a steady rate of just over four runs per over.
Jayawardene slammed 14 fours in all, and seven of them came against Pathan. The Indian pacers looked ordinary even in the second spell as well, providing the batsman enough room on either side of the wicket.
Just when Jayawardene looked like getting ready for the kill, Kumble had him caught at forward short-leg off a bat-pad chance. The leg-spinner pushed in a quicker-delivery; the ball took a faint edge and clipped the pad before Gautam Gambhir completed the catch. (124-3, 28)
Of the 76 runs he scored, only seven came down the wicket in the conventional `V'. Jayawardene stringed another useful partnership with Samaraweera, adding 62 runs in 13 overs for the third wicket.
Kumble also got the wicket of Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu, who dropped himself to number five in the batting position. Atapattu was missing in the field for most part of the Indian innings, and it wasn't clear whether he came down because of an injury or wanted to continue with his spot in the ODI line-up.
The slowness of the wicket came into play once again, as Atapattu was bowled by Kumble. The batsman attempted a pull off a shorter delivery but the ball didn't rise high enough. Also the batsman got into his shot early only to see his stumps disturbed. (158-4, 37.4)
Samaraweera (35) and Tillkaratne Dilshan (8) cruised along to take Sri Lanka past the Indian total.
At the end of the 43rdr over, the umpires called off the match with 30 minutes still to go for the scheduled end.