Mathews calls on Sri Lanka to convert half-centuries against India

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Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs) as captain Dinesh Chandimal looks on during the third day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata

Angelo Mathews called on Sri Lanka's batsmen to convert their half-centuries into big hundreds to secure victory against India in the rain-hit opening Test on Saturday.

Mathews, who made 52 on his return from injury, put together a crucial 99-run third-wicket stand with Lahiru Thirimanne, who made 51, to make Sri Lanka end day three on 165-4 in Kolkata.

The visitors trail India by seven runs with skipper Dinesh Chandimal not out on 13 and Niroshan Dickwella on 14.

"We have to go out there and take responsibility and try and score as many runs as possible," Mathews told reporters.

"Fifties are not going to do any good to anyone. Not for me and not for my team. If we get a start we need to go onto get a big one. It was a challenging wicket," the former captain said.

The left-right batting combination of Thirimanne and Mathews mixed caution and aggression against a persistent Indian pace attack.

Indian quicks Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav claimed two wickets each on a day when almost three full sessions were played. Only 31.5 overs were bowled on the first two days because of rain and bad light.

Thirimanne, who was dropped on 27, edged a moving delivery by Yadav soon after registering his fifth Test fifty, and skipper Virat Kohli made no mistake at second slip.

Yadav struck again in his next over to send Mathews, making a 50 in an impressive comeback from injury, back to the pavilion after giving away a simple catch to Lokesh Rahul at short cover.

Kumar struck early to remove openers Dimuth Karunaratne, for eight, and Sadeera Samarawickrama, for 23, as the visitors slipped to 34-2 before bouncing back.

"In the last few years the Indians have been producing some superb fast bowlers. Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are world class," said Mathews.

"We need to be mentally prepared and be ready to score runs off them. I think we can."

- Lower-order push -

In the morning session, a lower-order push by Indian batsmen saw the hosts post 172, a score that looked unlikely at 128-8.

After overnight batsman Cheteshwar Pujara fell early on 52, vital contributions from Wriddhiman Saha (29), Ravindra Jadeja (22) and 24 from number-10 Shami frustrated the Sri Lankan bowling.

"At this stage we are very much in the game. Obviously wicket has got a little better. We had got 170 odd runs and then picked four wickets," Pujara said.

"I think we are confident that if weather permits, we will try and make a game out of it."

Pujara also added that participating in county cricket, for his side Nottinghamshire, gave him valuable "exposure" of playing on many challenging wickets.

Meanwhile Shami limped off during the Sri Lankan innings five balls into an over which he could not finish. Pujara later confirmed that the paceman would be back on the field on Sunday.

Sri Lanka's pace spearhead Suranga Lakmal finished with figures of 4-26 after taking three wickets on day one to justify the visitors' decision to field first.

Sri Lanka, despite being underdogs against the top-ranked hosts, are eyeing their first Test win on Indian soil during the three-match series.