If their two most experienced batsmen led Sri Lanka's first-innings fight, their fifth-day heroes were two newer faces. Dhananjaya de Silva scored his third hundred in only his 11th Test, and Roshen Silva made an unbeaten 74 on debut, their efforts leading Sri Lanka to a fighting draw at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
It was a heartening result, given that Sri Lanka came here right after suffering their worst-ever defeat in the second Test in Nagpur. Neither Dhananjaya nor Roshen played that game, and their displays here may have made fans back home wonder why the former isn't yet a settled member of Sri Lanka's top order and why it took 103 first-class games for the latter to convince the selectors of his ability.
India took only two wickets on the fifth day, of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, their two first-innings centurions. They never once picked up two wickets back-to-back: Chandimal and Dhananjaya added 112, Dhananjaya and Roshen 58 before the former retired hurt, and Roshen and Niroshan Dickwella an unbroken 94.
It was a reflection of how well Sri Lanka batted, but also of how little help there was for either seam or spin on one of the most benign fifth-day tracks seen in India in recent times.
With five overs left for tea, India were given a small opening when Dhananjaya walked off the field, having struggled through most of the second session with a thigh injury that inhibited his footwork and running between the wickets. They took the second new ball in the last over before tea, and began the final session hoping it would give them some much-craved-for bite and bounce.
But Roshen, whose nimble feet and unhurried manner were reminiscent of Sri Lanka's current batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, was just as assured against India's quicks as he had against their spinners. A Mohammed Shami lifter hit him on the gloves and he inside edged Ishant Sharma into his box, but otherwise he wasn't troubled, as he ignored anything wide of off stump and ducked or swayed to avoid the short ones. India brought back spin, and Roshen immediately brought up his fifty, stepping out and driving Ravindra Jadeja to the cover boundary.
India had a greater chance of dismissing the impulsive Niroshan Dickwella at the other end, and the wicketkeeper-batsman, playing all his shots despite the match situation, gave them one clear-cut chance with the final hour looming. Stepping out of his crease to Jadeja, he missed one that hit the rough outside his off stump but refused to turn. The ball beat Wriddhiman Saha too, and thudded into his chest rather than settle in his gloves.