Sri Lanka v Australia Third Test Day 3

Over the generations, Test cricket connoisseurs have savoured many great tandem acts. For Australian fans, the incandescent bowling partnership formed by the menacing moustachioed DK Lillee and the frightening beach-bum-looking JR Thomson unfortunately shone all too briefly. Other partnerships, like those two miserly yet very attacking bowling geniuses Warne and McGrath, or the masterful English openers Hobbs and Sutcliffe endured. Both these legendary pair’s longevity adds gravitas to their positions in cricket’s pantheon of successful duos.

In the same vein, Sri Lanka’s Old Firm, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have over the course of a decade churned out a truckload of runs. Their output, particularly at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Ground, is downright Bradmanesque. Jayawardene has notched more Test centuries here (10) than Bradman did in Melbourne (9). Any batsman that can take a batting record off the Don has to be lauded. In 2006, against a reasonable and temperamental South African pace attack of Ntini, Steyn, Nel, Hall and a moderate slow bowler in Boje, the Jayawardene and Sangakkara duumvirate turned a precarious 2/14 into a much safer 3/638. As an aside, Boje’s unflattering bowling analysis was 0/221.

Sri Lanka’s congested roads are forever chaotic. Driver fatigue can manifest itself rather quickly when sharing the roads with myriad tuk-tuks, Lanka Ashok Leyland buses and various species of quadrupeds. Bowlers, particularly those that lack variety, craft, mongrel and bluff, can experience a similarly rapid onset of fatigue (and heartbreak) bowling on this SSC road. Jayawardene and Sangakkara, in particular, have the potential to cause more than their fair share of bowling fatigue.

Day 3 of this final Test, in what has been a reasonably enjoyable series to watch, begins with Sri Lanka trailing by 150 runs with 8 wickets (some of these are dead-set batting bunnies) in hand. Jayawardene and Sangakkara are poised to cash in. Can Sangakkara make a hundred in his 100th Test? If he does, he’ll join Colin Cowdrey, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge, Alec Stewart, Inzaman ul-Haq and Ricky Ponting (in each innings) in achieving this feat.

On this tarmac, Jayawardene and Sangakkara play the pace bowlers largely off the front-foot and with bats seemingly wider than shed doors. When attacking or defending, both are as balanced as a gymnast on a horizontal beam. From perfect balance and footwork, Jayawardene plays some exquisite drives. My interest in cricket was first stimulated by photographs of Keith Miller and Neil Harvey playing attacking shots. Such photographs embody the art of batting displayed by these two Sri Lankans. Both are setting themselves for a long occupation of the crease.

Shane Watson possesses variety, craft, mongrel and bluff in his bowling repertoire. As a bowler, he’s an Einstein. As a batsman, sadly he’s not.

On 51, Jayawardene drives at a wider, fuller delivery from Watson. It’s a sucker ball. It’s the type of delivery that Ian Botham used frequently and successfully. Jayawardene is seduced by the width and the length. He feathers a catch to Haddin who gleefully accepts the gift in Colombo’s equatorial humidity.

Dilshan ‘expertly’ leaves his first delivery, a serious inswinger from Watson that misses the off-peg by a millimetre. Clever bowling from Watson.

Australia takes the second new ball with Sri Lanka three wickets down. Siddle’s lionhearted efforts are rewarded when he gets the red cherry to bounce a little more than expected and catches the edge of Sangakkara’s shed door. Again Haddin accepts neatly and without fuss. Australia has done a mighty job to dismiss these two Sri Lankan greats without either of them making a ton.

As a batsman, Dilshan is a thrasher who plays with lightning hands. With an economy of footwork, he smotes several searing drives through the covers. He looks like a batsman from Freddie Trueman’s Test Match board game. In conjunction with Angelo Matthews who is also playing his natural game, Sri Lanka progresses quickly from 4/210 to finish at 5/337 at the tea interval.

With some hungry spectators thinking about devouring a Keells hot dog during the tea break, and while a taped episode of A Farmer Wants a Wife is controversially aired in the Macedon Ranges, Dilshan perishes to Copeland for a breezy 83. According to Cricinfo, while standing up to Copeland, Haddin has the ball travel up his right thigh, then bobble around his midriff and eventually nestle into the sanctuary of his gloves. Dilshan is stiff.

The final session begins with Sri Lanka trying to consolidate their lead. Initially, progress is slow and methodical. And it’s in keeping with the state of the Test. Sri Lanka needs to build a formidable lead and can’t afford to expose its long tail with only a slender advantage. Johnson tries to make something happen with his gob. As often happens with this poor sledger, a flurry of runs results.

Watson has to be used more than Clarke would like. Lyon and Copeland are finding out about Test cricket. This is not Copeland’s pitch. His pace decreases towards that of a part-time trundler. Lyon looks increasingly dishevelled in the oppressive conditions. And his bowling unravels to boot.

At 5/412, Clarke’s clever placing of two short mid-wickets leads to the demise of P. Jayawardene who clips the ball off middle stump and is caught by Clarke just above his shoelaces.

A few runs later, and with the light fading, Copeland extracts a nick. Haddin, standing up to the stumps, appears set in stone. The ball misses his immobilised gloves and the chance goes begging.

Johnson’s last few overs of a long day are plain horrible. John Watkins comes to mind re inaccuracy.

By stumps on Day 3, Sri Lanka converted a 150 run deficit into a 112 run surplus (6/428). Sri Lanka has the ascendancy. However they need to demonstrate the appropriate urgency to give themselves maximum time to bowl Australia out.

With the immediate future of Australia’s batting line-up at stake, Australia’s second innings promises to be really interesting. Hughes will bat for his position in the side to tour South Africa. And Watson needs a score. The recent run of Australian moderate batting totals must cease. Unfortunately, Australia can’t rely on Hussey forever.


  1. PF

    How I longed to have a bat as wide as a shed door.

    The question of Johnson must be exercising minds now surely.

    The 2nd batting effort will be instructive. Will the pitch remain a road?

  2. More a twig from this former dasher.

    I think the pitch will remain a road. It’ll turn a little more on Days 4 and 5.

    Johnson could play 100 Tests and be a liability in about 80 of them.

  3. I think Shaun Marsh might have just denied himself a second Test century.

  4. Gigs,

    What was he thinking?

    What was Hughes thinking?

    The answer I suppose is zilch.

  5. Flynny,
    Can you drop me an email [email protected] regarding the 1991 semi-final against the Hawks. I need some historial advice on the match for an Almanac report I’m writing.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Geez how times have changed not sure if , PF would salivate more re mitch the mo or Stevie J ! Enjoyable as always , PF Thank you

  7. Peter Flynn says

    Old Mate,

    Have a look at my comment above:

    “Johnson could play 100 Tests and be a liability in about 80 of them.”



Leave a Comment