3rd Test: Sangakkara guides a gritty Sri Lanka
There are few things Kumar Sangakkara has failed to achieve in Test cricket. As he walked off the SSC ground on the second afternoon of his 100th Test, he would have felt that one of those unfulfilled goals - playing in a win over Australia - was one step closer.
There are few things Kumar Sangakkara has failed to achieve in Test cricket. As he walked off the SSC ground on the second afternoon of his 100th Test, he would have felt that one of those unfulfilled goals - playing in a win over Australia - was one step closer. Sangakkara has tasted victory against every other Test nation, and while plenty of work remains in this match, it could be his best chance to complete the set.
On a day that started with Michael Hussey's 15th Test century and a four-wicket haul from the debutant Shaminda Eranga, Sri Lanka finished at a comfortable 166 for 2. They still trailed Australia by 150 runs, but with Sangakkara looking composed on 61 and Mahela Jayawardene on 31, Sri Lanka could certainly dream of building a first-innings lead.
The pair had put on 68, but on a surface offering little for the bowlers, there was no reason that figure couldn't expand significantly on the third day. Sangakkara brought up his half-century from his 86th delivery, with a slashing cut to the boundary off Mitchell Johnson, one ball after he sent a similarly short and wide ball to the rope.
He and Jayawardene had come together after the loss of Tharanga Paranavitana, who on 46 drove Johnson off the meat of the bat, only to see Ricky Ponting at short cover take a terrific catch. Paranavitana had already survived one of the closest lbw reviews seen under the DRS, when on 14 he was given not out by Aleem Dar.
Australia wanted the decision checked, and while Trent Copeland's delivery had pitched in line and was striking off stump, a fraction less than half the ball was hitting the middle of the stump, saving the batsman. The only early breakthrough came when Peter Siddle, playing his first Test of the tour, sneaked through the defence of Lahiru Thirimanne.
On 28, Thirimanne was beaten by a good fullish delivery that straightened off the pitch and rattled the stumps. It was a reward for consistently good bowling from Siddle, although the visitors had missed the injured Ryan Harris with the new ball.
Australia wanted early wickets after they reached a competitive but far from imposing total of 316 in the first session, when Hussey continued his remarkable series by bringing up his second hundred of the series. Sri Lanka's new fast bowler Eranga removed Hussey shortly before lunch to finish with four wickets on debut.
Australia added 81 to their overnight score for the loss of their final five wickets, as Eranga and Chanaka Welegedara bowled well and found some swing. But the star of the session was Hussey, who at 36 is in the kind of form he displayed at the start of his Test career. The Man of the Match in the first two Tests, he also gave himself a strong chance of complete a clean-sweep.
Hussey brought up his hundred with a single clipped off his pads off Rangana Herath from his 157th delivery, and it continued an incredible streak against Sri Lanka. In the five Tests he has played against the Sri Lankans, the only match in which Hussey has failed to post a century was the first Test of this series in Galle, where he made 95.
He also became the fifth-fastest Australian to reach 5000 Test runs, getting there in his 107th innings, slower only than Don Bradman, Matthew Hayden, Neil Harvey and Greg Chappell. He reached that milestone with a pair of boundaries cut through point off Welegedara, but for a while it looked like Hussey was in danger of being stranded on 99.
While Hussey waited for his hundred, he watched on as Johnson pushed tamely to point off Welegedara and Siddle edged to slip from the next ball. Fortunately for Hussey, Copeland survived the hat-trick ball and provided adequate support, at least, until Welegedara's next over, when he was taken at slip by Mahela Jayawardene.
But by then, Hussey had reached his century, and the goal was simply to push the total as high as possible with the final partnership with Nathan Lyon. Hussey lofted a six over long-on off Herath, before on 118 he was tricked by a slower ball and played on, completing a fine debut performance from Eranga, who finished with 4 for 65.
Eranga had picked up the first wicket of the day when a very good outswinger was adjudged to have caught the edge of Brad Haddin's bat when he was on 35. Haddin looked surprised by the decision and asked for a review, but there was a slight noise as the ball passed the bat and there was certainly no evidence to reprieve him.
Haddin had struck six boundaries in his innings, but mixed in several plays and misses with his successes. In the end, he was simply outclassed by a fine delivery from Eranga. And if Australia's bowlers are outclassed by Sangakkara and Jayawardene, a drawn series is a distinct possibility.