Clarke century seals Colombo draw


Michael Clarke chose an opportune time to end his drought of Test centuries as the third and final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo ended in a draw on Tuesday.

Michael Clarke chose an opportune time to end his drought of Test centuries as the third and final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo ended in a draw on Tuesday.

Needing a staunch effort from someone to push for an insurmountable lead against a Sri Lankan attack eager to force a series-squaring win, Australia looked to their captain, who alongside Michael Hussey delivered a record 176-run fifth-wicket stand – the highest ever by Australia against the hosts – that all but sealed the deal and a one-nil series triumph for the visitors.

Having weathered some initial reverse swing from the old ball, the duo clinically undid the home side's call for the new cherry and soon had the result in the bag. With sixes flowing down the ground, boundaries consistently laced through the off-side and one particular passage of play bringing all of 44 runs from four overs, Clarke and Hussey were quick to shrug off the loss of Phil Hughes.

The centurion added a mere four runs to his overnight score, ultimately holing out for 126 to backward square-leg with a top-edged sweep. Rangana Herath, with four scalps in the bag, would have to wait until well after tea for the sixth five-wicket haul of his Test career.

With the 15th century of his Test career and his first since the 168 he landed against New Zealand in March last year, Clarke was in full flow and eager to up the entertainment levels on a pitch once again rendered a veritable tarmac by over-preparation. His strike didn't have the carry, though, and the mid-on fielder was at hand for a simple catch to have the relieved centurion on his way back to an appreciative dressing room for 112.

Australia's bid to force the draw might have endured an entirely shakier complexion had wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene not fluffed a couple of sharp stumping opportunities when Clarke was on 15 and 71.

His departure left Michael Hussey to his quest to become only the second Australian to score back-to-back centuries in the same match against Sri Lanka. Matthew Hayden had achieved the feat in 2004 but his former team-mate was unable to replicate the effort in 2011.

Chasing more runs amid a rather expensive over from part-time spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan, the left-hander didn't account for a bit of extra bounce and watched in despair as Chanaka Welegedera put in a superb diving catch to the leg-side. Settling on 93, Hussey at least fetched more than 400 runs for three Tests, his third Man of the Match award on the trot and the Player of the Series accolade.

With nothing to lose, Brad Haddin and the lower order enjoyed a collective dash. The wicketkeeper-batsman enjoyed a solid 30, while Peter Siddle was pretty cavalier en route to a brisk 26. Both men were stopped dead in their tracks by Herath, who reached for Test best figures of seven for 157 and in the process game the fourth Sri Lankan to clinch 100 Test victims. Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga now have company.

The opposition all out for 488, pursuing a 332-run target in the last 17 overs of the match was never an option for the hosts. Openers Tharanga Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne, who had earlier bowled a couple of overs of part-time seam and freelance spin amid the looming stalemate, blocked out two overs before all and sundry buckled to the inevitable deadlock.

For their 125-run win in Galle and the draws in Pallekele and Colombo, the Aussies retain the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are left to rue the absence of a bowler that would've had them in the contest a lot more often and Angelo Mathews' awful time-wasting on Monday.

Ajantha Mendis, sidelined by a back injury, surely would've made a big impact had he played and all-rounder Mathews will next time want to put the needs of the team before those of his own.