Sri Lanka elevate lead to 112
Sri Lanka moved to a position of comfort at 428 for six and a lead of 112 runs at stumps on day three to the third and final Test in Colombo on Sunday, but will rue the fact that none of their good starts graduated to knocks of great proportions.
Sri Lanka moved to a position of comfort at 428 for six and a lead of 112 runs at stumps on day three to the third and final Test in Colombo, but will rue the fact that none of their good starts graduated to knocks of great proportions.
Ultimately it was Angelo Mathews who proved the difference between a bad day at the office and a good one for the hosts, with the all-rounder moving to an unbeaten 85 at the close of play. Mathews was the fourth half-centurion of the innings of Sunday, with Prasanna Jayawardene's knock of 47 thrown in the mix, and really must convert to three figures come the new week if his side are to stand any chance of squaring a three-match series they trail one-nil.
Needing all the time they can get to bowl the Aussies out a second time, the home side will want steady runs from their in-form right-hander on Monday, with cameos from debutant Shaminda Eranga and the remainder of the lower order pivotal. 350-odd in the black – if not more – and four sessions to undo the opposition will be captain Tillakaratne Dilshan's initial target, which could have been made so much easier had he stuck around for longer than his 83.
Batting at five in the order in the wake of Thilan Samaraweera's axe and Lahiru Thirimanne's recall, the dashing right-hander orchestrated a fine 131-ball vigil, 14 fours included, only to fall when really knuckled in for the long haul. Not quite the thick edge on the drive we have become accustomed to from Dilshan, but his faint feather on the late cut was enough for wicketkeeper Brad Haddin – standing up to the stumps – to pouch at the last moment.
Their captain's departure left Mathews and wicketkeeper-batsman Jayawardene to a solid 81-run partnership. Eager to see the hosts to stumps without further loss, the duo batted with mature measure in the face of a determined Australian attack unperturbed by conditions entirely trying for bowling.
Jayawardene, buoyed by back-to-back sixes hurtled over the midwicket fence off spinner Nathan Lyon, perished soon thereafter as another loose on-drive from the right-hander found the hands of Michael Clarke at short catcher. The bait had been taken, the plan had worked and Trent Copeland (two for 70) was overjoyed with more success in the wake of Dilshan's dismissal.
Mathews, staving off an unwelcome penchant for having to bat alongside the tail-enders, enjoyed able support from Eranga – dropped on nought by Haddin – to reach 85 not out at the close. Stranded on 99 not out two years ago and cleaned up for 95 earlier this month, a belated maiden Test century beckons for the deserving vice-captain.
The visitors, meanwhile, will enjoy a good night's rest after spending their first full day in the field for the first time this series. Nothing less than quick, sharp wickets will do for Clarke's posse come day four.
Earlier former captains Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene gave Sri Lanka a solid start to day three on the back of the openers' original progress. Jayawardene moved to his 40th Test half-century and completed a century stand with his partner – the 14th of their career and the sixth at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
The bowlers stuck to their task and Shane Watson gave Australia the breakthrough in the 77th over when Jayawardene flashed at a wide, one only to edge it behind for 51. It was the fourth time in the series that he had gone in that fashion and it was Watson's 50th Test wicket.
The new ball contributed to Sangakkara's departure as Peter Siddle got some extra bounce, which forced the left-hander had to play at it. With the edge snapped up behind, the veteran was denied the taste of a ton in his 100th Test, instead sent back to the hut for 79.
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