India, all out for 276 in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings of 520-8 declared, were 68-2 at tea, still trailing by 176 runs [Reuters]

Lasith Malinga's lethal three-wicket spell frustrated India's hopes to save the first test as Sri Lanka edged close to a famous win at the end of day four on Wednesday.

The visitors, after being forced to follow on, reached stumps at 181-5, needing 63 more just to make Sri Lanka bat again and avoid defeat by an innings.

It has five second-innings wickets in hand and a day's play remaining.

Earlier, retiring offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan bagged his 67th five-wicket haul to dismiss India for 276 in its first innings in reply to Sri Lanka's 520-8.

Following on, India was showing signs of a serious fightback while Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were sharing a solid 119-run partnership for the third wicket under pressure.

Then Malinga dismissed both batsmen in the span of six balls.

Dravid flicked Malinga straight to Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara at square leg after patiently handling 152 balls for his 44.

He fell at 161-3, ending a 254-ball partnership with Tendulkar, who exited 11 runs later.

Tendulkar's 84 came off 142 balls, including 11 fours and a six.

Trapped lbw by a quick yorker from Malinga, Tendulkar fell 16 runs shy of a century in five successive tests this year.

Muralitharan, who hadn't bowled as well as he did in the first innings, had Yuvraj Singh caught at slip by Mahela Jayawardene with the last ball of the day as bad light was called.

Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in tests, needs only two more to become the first bowler to take 800.

VVS Laxman was on 9 with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to come as India's last recognized batsman.

India started its second innings in the middle session trailing Sri Lanka by 244 runs but Malinga struck in the third ball of the innings by inducing an edge off opener Gautam Gambhir for a catch to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Gambhir has had a disastrous test, having scored 2 and 0.

First-innings centurion Virender Sehwag made 31 before chasing a wide ball from Chanaka Welegedara for a second time in the match to be brilliantly caught at gully by Mahela Jayawardene.

Source: AP