Colombo: Veteran VVS Laxman cracked a fighting unbeaten 103 as India relied on their experienced batsmen to pull off a five-wicket win in the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka to level the series 1-1 in Colombo.
Laxman defied cramps and anchored the innings brilliantly to notch up his 16th Test hundred, while Sachin Tendulkar (54) and Suresh Raina (41 not out) were the other notable contributors as the visitors overhauled a target of 257 about 10 minutes before the tea break.
Raina clobbered Chanaka Welegedara for a six to hand Sri Lanka there first defeat at P Sara Oval Stadium since August 1994, triggering scenes of celebration in the Indian dressing room.
Chasing 257 on a rather difficult fifth day track, the Indians recovered from early blows suffered on Friday with a 109-run partnership between Laxman and Tendulkar that laid the foundation of the win.
But on the flipside, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men could not break the 17-year-old jinx of not winning a series in the island nation.
Resuming the chase from Friday’s 53 for three, India lost night-watchman Ishant Sharma (4) early in the morning.
Ishant was caught at short mid-wicket by Kumar Sangakkara off Suraj Randiv in the morning. Randiv ripped in a flighted loopy delivery around off and middle stump, leaving Ishant bemused who looked shaky right from the start.
145 for four at lunch, India still had some distance to cover before getting to the target and there was a bit of drama to come immediately after the break.
Tendulkar was dismissed when Randiv flighted one outside the leg stump and the Indian, attempting a sweep shot, ended up gloving one to wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
Tendulkar’s contribution to the win ended at 54 which came off 122 balls and included three fours.
But the ever-dependable Laxman ensured that his illustrious partner’s dismissal did not trigger the kind of dreadful collapses that have cost India in the past.
The stylish Hyderabadi scored freely and his fifty, which came while Tendulkar was there at the other end, came off just 81 balls in the post-lunch session.
Joined by the in-form Raina, who scored a century on debut in the drawn second Test, Laxman ensured that the boundaries kept coming for India at regular intervals and he alone collected 12 of them.
The 35-year-old’s body, however, started troubling him after he reached 60. Laxman was down on ground in pain before the 52nd over due to a lower back problem, which required the physio’s assistance.
But the gritty batsman continued nonetheless with Virender Sehwag as his runner.
He reached his century off 146 deliveries by striking consecutive fours off Mendis in the 68th over.