GALLE: Australia closed in on a convincing victory in the first Test in Galle after Sri Lanka’s top-order was ripped apart for a second time.
Sri Lanka, set an improbable target of 379 to win on a crumbling wicket, were tottering at 120 for five at close on the third day. Former captain Mahela Jayawardene provided a batting lesson for his teammates, making an unbeaten 57 with the help of eight boundaries. Angelo Mathews was the other not out batsman on 32, having put on 52 runs for the sixth wicket with his senior partner.
Australia start the fourth day’s play today needing five more wickets to win and take the lead in the three-Test series, their first in Sri Lanka since 2004. Sri Lanka need to defy history to stop the tourists - the highest fourth innings score at the ground is 210 by New Zealand two years ago.
The hosts, who were shot out for 105 in the first innings, succumbed to a hostile three-wicket burst by Ryan Harris and probing seam bowling from Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson. Harris trapped Tharanga Paranavitana leg-before with the first ball of the innings and then bowled Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan in his fourth over to leave the hosts 15 for two.
Kumar Sangakkara would have been another Harris victim, but survived a review for leg-before off the first ball he faced.
‘Australia in good position’
Harris, a 31-year-old playing only his sixth Test, followed his defiant 23 in Australia’s second innings with two for 15 in his first five overs.
“I was happy how I bowled even in the first innings, I don’t think I was far from getting wickets then,” said the paceman, who had conceded just six runs from eight overs without taking a wicket on Thursday. “I have not seen too many dry pitches like this and we were just trying to exploit the cracks.
“We are in a good position and it will be nice if we can finish it off early. But the two guys out there are pretty settled.”
Rain, Herath piled on agony
Earlier, Australia resumed at 115 for six after the whole of the morning session was wiped out by heavy rain and were dismissed for 210 in their second-innings midway through the post-lunch session. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath finished with five for 79 to add to his three wickets in the first innings.
Usman Khawaja put on 40 for the eighth wicket with Harris before falling leg-before to Chanaka Welegedara for 26 to leave Australia 170 for eight.
Australia’s total was boosted by a last-wicket stand of 32 between debutants Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon. Lyon made 13 before he was caught in the deep off Dilshan, leaving Copeland unbeaten on 23.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.