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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dilatory Sri Lankan batting + Hughes century= draw likely T3D4

Australia 316 and 3/209  (68ov, Hughes 122*) lead Sri Lanka 473 (174 ov, Mathews 105*, Dilshan 83, Sangakkara 79, M Jayawardene 51, Siddle 4/91) by 52 runs with 7 second inns wickets in hand: T3D4 at Colombo (SSC)

With a day to play Sri Lanka could still conceivably win. But to do so they'll need to show much more energy with the ball in the first session of D5 than they did with the bat in the first session of D4, when they built on a handy lead by laboriously batting for 19 overs to add 45 runs.

Angelo Mathews was both the chief culprit and the chief beneficiary: he did make his maiden Test century but, ignoring many opportunities to take runs, spent 42 balls adding 20, to end with 105*/269b (10x4). Yes, he's made a couple of Test 90s, but this was will probably turn out to be a match-saving innings when a match-winning one was needed.

A word about Peter Siddle. He bowled 35 wholehearted overs in what by all reports was sapping heat for 4/91 and must now be a serious contender for a place (Mitchell Johnson's?) in the starting lineup for the Tests (can two matches really be called a "series"?) in South Africa.

Phil Hughes, in what must have been his last chance this time around, led Australia's response. The pitch continued to play well - until Rangana Herath came on to bowl left arm over the wicket. He had Shane Watson lbw on review, Shaun Marsh adjudged caught at short leg, but bizarrely (as replays clearly showed ball missing bat) not reviewing, and Ricky Ponting caught at slip off a ball which turned, bounced and took the glove.

At stumps Hughes was 122*/202b (1x6, 16x4). After Watson went he kept the innings moving as both Marsh and Ponting played themselves in. He played some elegant drives and defended watchfully, if a tad inelegantly (as when on 99 he was tangled up, nowhere near out, but inducing  Sri Lanka to waste a review). 

Each partnership has added at least 60, enabling Australia to move to a modest, if not yet comfortable, lead. The match looks to be heading for a draw, but the first session, and perhaps beyond, should be interesting. Hughes has made his point: what better time for Michael Clarke, on 8*/37b, to make his?


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