Dhawan was eventually caught behind off paceman Dasun Shanaka for 94. Cheteshwar Pujara, on two, was batting alongside Rahul, on 73, when bad light stopped play. "Feeling good and bad both. Of course it's disappointing when you're so close to the century and miss out. But we've made a game of this, so I'm happy," said Dhawan.
"We're going to be positive tomorrow and try to make a match of it. We're going to go for it," the left-hander added. Rangana Herath's 67 had helped steer the visitors to 294 in response to India's 172.
But Rahul and Dhawan made batting look easy on a sunny afternoon -- a welcome change from the rainy start on the first two days -- to keep the Sri Lankan attack at bay. The in-form Rahul registered his ninth score of 50-plus in the last 11 innings. He got strong support from Dhawan, who recorded his fourth Test fifty.
The two batsmen smashed 19 boundaries between them, including two sixes from Dhawan, forcing Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal to juggle his bowling options. Shanaka, with little time left until stumps, denied Dhawan what would have been his seventh Test hundred in his 27th match.
- 'Credit to fast bowlers' -
Earlier Sri Lanka, who started the day on 165-4, suffered a middle-order stutter before Herath starred in stubborn partnerships against a persistent pace attack. The left-hander, Sri Lanka's premier spin bowler, showed great resolve during his knock which lasted 105 balls and included nine boundaries.
Herath, who registered his third Test fifty, finally fell to paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar after mistiming and slicing to deep point.
"I wanted to play the shots and stay positive. The credit should go to fast bowlers of both teams. Compared to the first two days, today was much better to bat on and that's why we were able to go on and take a lead," Herath told reporters. "Compared to the first two days of the match, this is a much better wicket to bat on. We have got one more day to go and will see what happens," the 39-year-old said.
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami dismissed both overnight batsmen, Niroshan Dickwella and Chandimal, to check Sri Lanka's progress in the morning. Wicketkeeper-batsman Dickwella, who made 35, and Chandimal, 28, had scored briskly to extend their partnership to 62.
Kumar and Shami claimed four wickets each while third seamer Umesh Yadav chipped in with two. The visitors are seeking their first Test win on Indian soil in the three-match series.
First Published: November 19, 2017, 10:27 PM IST