Dambulla: Indian bowlers put up an impressive performance to take the visitors within sniffing distance of a win before the last-wicket pair of Ramesh Mendis and Lakshan Jayasinghe stood tall to eke out a creditable draw for Sri Lanka in the first Youth Test (Under-19) here on Friday.
Till Thursday evening, the match was heading for a tame draw with Sri Lanka comfortably placed at 235 for 5 in their first innings in reply to India's 503 for 7 declared.
Resuming their innings, Sri Lanka needed another 119 runs to reach 354 and avoid the follow-on.
But Indian pace duo of Atul Singh (3/39) and Chama Milind (2/41) had other plans as the Lankans lost their last five wickets for just 21 runs to enforce the follow-on on the home team.
Indian bowlers needed to pick up 10 more wickets on a placid track to win the match and they came tantalisingly close to their target before Mendis (22 not out) and Jayasinghe (8 not out) spoiled the visitors' party.
Singh (2 for 38), Milind (2 for 46), Kuldeep Yadav (2 for 100) and Shreyas Iyer (2 for 22) shared eight wickets between them to bring India within sniffing distance of a win, which was not to be.
With Sri Lanka down at 241 for nine, still needing six more runs to avoid an innings defeat, the last-wicket pair of Mendis and Jayasinghe bat out 55 balls to save the match, much to the frustration of the Indians.
Mendis played 77 balls during his gritty unbeaten knock. He got able support from last man Jayasinghe from the other end who managed to keep at bay 29 deliveries.
Sadeera Samarawickrama (88) top-scored for the Lankans in their second innings score of 264 for 9. Thilaksha Sumanasiri (62) also scored a half-century for the hosts.
The second and final Test of the series will be played in Welagedara Stadium, Kurunegala from July 29 to August 1.
India 1st innings: 503 for seven decl in 127 overs
Sri Lanka: 256 and 264 for nine in 92 overs (Sadeera Samarawickrama 88, Thilaksha Sumanasiri 62; Shreyas Iyer 2/22).