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Sri Lanka hit back with three quick wickets even as Shikhar Dhawan's sixth Test ton helped India reach 235/3 at tea on the opening day of the third and final Test at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium here on Saturday. Skipper Virat Kohli (11 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (3 not out) went into the break undivided after left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara packed off the opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul. Chinaman Lakshan Sandakan got the crucial wicket of one-down Cheteshwar Pujara just before the break.
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Resuming at 134/0, Dhawan and Rahul kept punishing the bowlers to swell their stand to 188 before Pushpakumara's tossed up delivery cut short Rahul's stay before home skipper Dinesh Chandimal's brilliant diving catch ended Dhawan's 123-ball knock, which was laced with 17 hits to the fence. Rahul was in excellent form and seemed to be well on his way to what would have been a well deserved century when he was let down by a poor piece of shot selection. Having stepped out to a delivery from Pushpakumara, Rahul misjudged the flight and could only manage to find Dimuth Karunaratne at mid-on. Rahul scored 85 runs off 135 balls which included eight boundaries.
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Dhawan was going great guns at the other end, finding the gaps at regular intervals. But a mistimed sweep brought his innings to an end as Chandimal dived full length to his left at square leg to latch on to the ball in mid air. Dhawan, who departed on 119, scored his second century of the series and his third overall against Sri Lanka. This was the sixth century of his Test career.
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Pujara followed him back to the pavilion just three overs later after being caught by Angelo Mathews in the slips off Sandakan's bowling. Kohli and Rahane ensured that the visitors did not suffer any more setbacks before tea as the Lankans went into the break well satisfied with the outcome of the post lunch session.
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Brief Scores: India (first innings) 235/3 (Shikhar Dhawan 119, Lokesh Rahul 85, Virat Kohli 11 batting) vs Sri Lanka.