COLOMBO: Sachin Tendulkar hit his 48th Test century to lead India`s fightback in the second Test on Wednesday after Sri Lanka`s new-look bowling attack ran through the top order.
The world`s leading international run-scorer was unbeaten on 108 as India, replying to Sri Lanka`s 642-4 declared, recovered to 382-4 by stumps on the third day at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
India, who lost the opening Test in Galle by 10 wickets to trail 1-0 in the three-match series, need 61 runs more to avoid the embarrassment of a second successive follow-on.
The tourists were 165-0 at one stage before suffering a mini-collapse to 173-3 in the morning session, as rookie off-spinner Suraj Randiv grabbed two wickets and Ajantha Mendis claimed one.
Tendulkar, 37, who has scored more Test runs and centuries than any other batsman in history, stood rock-solid at one end for four hours and 37 minutes to anchor India`s revival.
He put on 68 for the fourth wicket with VVS Laxman (29) and 141 for the unbroken fifth with debutant Suresh Raina, who ended the day unbeaten on 66.
Tendulkar, a veteran of 168 Tests, reached his fifth hundred this year by sweeping Randiv to the square-leg fence for his 13th boundary.
Sri Lanka were left to rue Tendulkar`s lucky escape on 29 when wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene failed to grasp a head-high catch as the batsman attempted to slice a ball from Dilhara Fernando to third man.
The hosts had changed their entire frontline bowling attack for the match following the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan and after losing fast bowler Lasith Malinga to a knee injury.
But Randiv stood out with 2-108 from 35 overs, while Mendis had 2-92 from 26 overs on a wearing wicket that afforded bounce and turn to the spinners.
Openers Virender Sehwag (99) and Murali Vijay (58) put on 165 for the first wicket before Sri Lanka hit back, removing both batsmen in the space of 11 deliveries.
Sehwag was one run away from his 21st century when he rushed out to loft Randiv`s first ball of the day, misjudged the line and was stumped.
Sehwag, who hit 15 boundaries, missed out on a fourth century in successive Tests.
He made 109 and 165 in the last two home Tests against South Africa in February and 109 in the opening match of the current series.
"I felt bad to get out, not because I missed a century, but because the team needed more runs from me," the Indian vice-captain said.
"Tendulkar showed how great he is, but Raina played so well it was difficult to make out which of them was the debutant. They pulled us out of a tight corner.
"The wicket has started to crack up and I think there will be a result in this Test."
Vijay compiled a confident half-century but was dismissed when he misread a googly from Mendis and was caught plumb in front of the wicket.
Randiv struck a second time before lunch when he trapped Rahul Dravid leg-before for three.
Laxman partnered Tendulkar for most of the afternoon session, before falling just ahead of the tea interval when he was leg-before to Mendis.
Raina, 23, who was drafted in for his first Test cap after Yuvraj Singh developed high fever on the eve of the match, reached his 50 by driving Randiv through the covers.
BDST: 1849 HRS, JULY 28, 2010