Australia in Sri Lanka Test Series, 1st Test: Day 3

Australia in Sri Lanka Test Series, 1st Test: Day 3

Debutantes, wickets and controversies, oh my

 

Tests in Sri Lanka are rarely pretty affairs. The dustbowl pitches are either viciously spitting tracks that favor the home side, or dead, flat tracks that end in boring, high-scoring draws. The first Test of this series between Australia and Sri Lanka has offered neither, as the home team suffered the ignominy of being bowled out for 103, and Australia found themselves teetering at 115/6 at the end of Day 2. What mattered, though, was that they already had a 168-run lead to add to that 116, meaning that Sri Lanka were in for a long fight on their own turf.

 

 

 

 

Play on Day 3 was delayed by rain, washing out the first session. When proceedings finally resumed, Mitchell Johnson was the first victim of the day, caught behind of Rangana Herath for 8. Australia 130/7, but with enough runs in the bank to avoid a panic. Usman Khwaja took the lead over 300, and then rubbed it in with a 6 off Suraj Randiv (after Ryan Harris had rubbed salt in the wound with a 4). Chanaka Welegedera struck with the first ball of a new spell, trapping Khawaja in front of the stumps for a useful 26 (170/8). Ryan Harris departed for a similarly helpful 23, becoming Rangana Herath's fifth wicket of the innings.

 

At 178/9, Sri Lanka would have hoped to wrap things up, but Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon - continuing their outstanding debuts - biffed quick runs to take Australia to 210, when Tillekeratne Dilshan took the final wicket. There wasn't much by way of celebration, as Sri Lanka were left to chase down 379 with little chance of playing for a draw, on a pitch that was falling apart.

 

Much like the Australian second innings, a wicket fell with the first ball of the innings. Tharanga Paranavitana was adjudged LBW to Ryan Harris for a ball that pitched marginally outside leg stump (ironically adding to the Decision Review System controversy by not asking for a review). Kumar Sangakkara was almost gone the very next ball, in a very similar situation, but survived the review. Tillekeratne Dilshan, much like in his first innings, hit Trent Copeland for 4, but was more circumspect this time around. It didn't do him much good, as he became Ryan Harris' second wicket for just 12, and Sri Lanka were in early trouble at 14/2.

 

Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene steadied the ship, taking their team to 32/2 at tea. They came out fighting after the break, taking boundaries off Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson. The score was past 50 when Watson removed Sangakkara with a brute of a delivery for just 17, and Sri Lanka still in trouble at 53/3. Jayawardene became the first Sri Lankan to pass 30* in this Test, but Thilan Samaraweera was unable to repeat his contribution in the first innings, caught behind off Mitchell Johnson for a duck. 63/4 became 68/5 when Ryan Harris bowled Prasanna Jaywardene for a duck, the wicketkeeper's second duck of the game.

 

With Sri Lanka again looking like they may not get more than 100, but Angelo Mathews and Mahela Jayawardene stood fast. Mathews took three 4s off Mitchell Johnson, and Jayawardene three consecutive 4s off Nathan Lyon, the third bringing up his half-century. Sri Lanka passed 100 and their first innings score without the loss of any more wickets. Still, Australia were in control enough for Ricky Ponting to bowl a of overs before stumps was called on Day 3 with Sri Lanka at 120/5.

 

Despite the scoreline, not as easy game for either team. Australia didn't find batting easy for their 273 in the first innings, and 210 all out is nothing to crow about. Sri Lanka's travails - half the side down for just 120, with still 259 to get - are obvious, but this Test might be remembered more for the controversies and confusions over the Decision Review System and the myriad tools it requires. The dismissals of Phil Hughes and Tharanga Paranavitana, and the non-dismissal of Kumar Sangakkara (despite it being almost identical to Paranavitana's wicket) highlighted the complex complications of a procedure that was introduced to remove human error from the umpiring side of the game. So much for that.

 

Either way, what matters is that Sri Lanka have to score 259 more runs, with only five wickets in hand, two days of the Test to go, on an unpredictable pitch. With no more specialist, or even established, batsmen to come, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews will have to dig deeper and fight harder than they have in years if they're to pull this off. The only thing that can save them now is the rain.

 

Day 3: Sri Lanka 120/5 (Mahela Jayawardene 57*, Ryan Harris 9-2-24-3)

trail Australia 210 all out (Michael Clarke 60, Rangana Herath 23-3-79-5)

by 259 runs with 5 wickets left