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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Australia win (quite) comfortably though Jayawardene and Mathews fight hard

Australia 273 & 210 (59.2 ov, Clarke 60, Herath 5/79) def Sri Lanka 105 & 253 (95.5 ov, M Jayawardene 105, Mathews 95, Harris 5/62) by 125 runs with a day to spare: T1 at Galle. Australia lead 3 match series 1-0.

For a time today, when the Mahela Jayawardene-Angelo Mathews partnership blunted the persistent Australian attack, Sri Lanka looked to have an outside chance of an improbable win. They were chasing 378, a margin of safety improved by the 98 runs added for the last four wickets in the disappointing Australian second innings.

At lunch, after a rain shortened morning session, SL were 5/187, a great improvement on the previous day's 5/68, but still a long way from victory. While the wicket was no shirtfront it seemed to play better than over the previous two days when 25 wickets fell as 435 runs were scored. But much of today's revival was due to the resolution of the two Sri Lankans: the Australians generally bowled tightly yet without that sharpness which had characterised their first and half the second innings efforts.

The new ball did for the partnership, and effectively the match. Ryan Harris bowled a weary Jayawardene off an inside edge for an elegantly determined 105/231b (1x6, 15x4, 2x3, 33x1). Mathews tried to focus the lower order and move to a personal century but, after two of his partners went cheaply, fell to Watson, who once again proved his value as a fifth bowler, for 95/191b (13b).

In the end Australia won comfortably. Mike Hussey's first innings 95 turned out to be, even if it didn't appear that way at the time, the foundation upon which their victory was built: he was deservedly named Player of the Match. Yes,Hussey did bat when the pitch, which wasn't really up to Test match standard, was at its best but he was a cut above all his teammates. Jayawardene's second innings was magnificent too, but his total contribution was offset by his clumsy run out in his first.

Despite an abysmal first innings, Sri Lanka have shown that they should be no pushover for this developing Australian team. If they get a chance to bat first on a good wicket and avoid self-destructive moments such as the Jayawardene run out who knows what they might be capable of?

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