A record fifth-wicket partnership between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews kept Sri Lanka in with a fighting chance of avoiding defeat in the first Test against Australia. The pair put on 161 - a Sri Lanka record for any wicket in Australia - to help their side recover from their overnight 87 for four and avoid the follow-on.
However, the persistence of Peter Siddle finally paid off for Australia as he ended with five wickets and Sri Lanka’s last four fell for the addition of just 20 runs. Australia’s openers, Ed Cowan and David Warner, then both survived chances to take their side to stumps on 27 without loss in their second innings - a lead of 141 runs.
The Hobart rain again had it say, with a brace of interruptions necessitating another late finish. Sri Lanka added exactly 100 in the first session before the first of them brought the players off for lunch. By that time, Dilshan and Mathews had blunted Australia’s victory charge and moved on to 103 and 45 respectively.
They were helped by Mitchell Starc’s continuing inconsistency and a suspected side strain for Ben Hilfenhaus, who left the field during his fourth over never to return, and scored at a good rate until Dilshan slowed down in the 90s. He spent half an hour collecting those 10 runs, but eventually reached his milestone from his 148th delivery to spark a joyful celebration.
Dilshan’s main scoring area throughout his innings was through the off-side as he cut and drove with power, with most of his boundaries coming in the arc between gully and mid-off. His tempo slowed after lunch as he appeared to tire and survived a caught behind appeal off Siddle when on 125.
Dilshan did manage to outlast Mathews, who had played a willing second fiddle and finally departed, after a review, leg before to Siddle for 75 off 186 balls shortly before tea. That marked the end of a potentially match-saving fifth-wicket partnership, but the floodgates did not open just yet for Australia.
Prasanna Jayawardene joined Dilshan until he was eventually yorked by Starc when on 147 to bring to an end one of his better Test innings, while Jayawardene himself hit a fluent 40 before falling to trigger the mini-collapse that would end the Sri Lankan first innings at 336.
Cowan and Warner then extended Australia’s lead to 141 prior to the close, with the former benefiting from Sri Lanka’s failure to review a leg-before shout when he was on five and the latter edging just wide of second slip.
Sri Lanka’s task now looks a simple one. Barring a spectacular Australia second innings collapse, they will have to bat for around three and a half sessions to earn a draw on a pitch that, as Dilshan and Mathews showed, is by no means a minefield. Thanks to that pair, things look a lot rosier than they did at stumps yesterday, but Australia are probably still just about favourites to seal the win.
© Cricket World 2012
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