SL cor­ner Aus­tralia in tricky chase

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

PALLEKELE — Aus­tralia faced an up­hill strug­gle to save the first Test against Sri Lanka’s ram­pant spin­ners af­ter los­ing three early sec­ond in­nings wick­ets yes­ter­day while try­ing to chase down a for­mi­da­ble tar­get of 268.

The tourists were pre­car­i­ously placed at 83 for three, with skip­per Steve Smith un­beaten on 26, when bad light forced an early end to play for the fourth day run­ning in Pallekele.

The world num­ber one Test team still need an­other 185 runs for vic­tory on the fi­nal day on Saturday, when Sri Lanka’s trio of spin­ners will ex­pect to cap­i­talise on their early in­roads against the tourists.

The hosts’ lead­ing left-arm spin­ner Ran­gana Herath struck in only the sec­ond over of the Aus­tralian in­nings when he bowled vice­cap­tain David Warner for one.

Us­man Khawaja started pos­i­tively with three fours but he was ruled leg be­fore wicket to off­spin­ner Dil­ruwan Per­era when he at­tempted a sweep shot af­ter mak­ing 18, leav­ing Aus­tralia reel­ing at 33/2.

Then the debu­tant Lak­shan San­dakan joined the party with a ball that turned sharply and bowled opener Joe Burns who had looked well set on 29.

One run later, first in­nings top scorer Adam Vo­ges was ruled lbw to Per­era for no score, but the bats­man re­viewed the de­ci­sion suc­cess­fully.

With the ball turn­ing alarm­ingly, Smith and Vo­ges then sup­pressed their urge to play at­tack­ing shots while keep­ing the score­board tick­ing over with some sharply-run singles.

Smith’s 54-ball in­nings has not fea­tured any bound­aries so far, while his part­ner Vo­ges was bat­ting in a sim­i­larly stead­fast mood, reach­ing nine at the close of play off 25 de­liv­er­ies.

Aus­tralia’s strug­gles against the Sri Lankan bowlers fur­ther un­der­lined the im­por­tance of Kusal Mendis’ su­perb maiden Test cen­tury in what has been a low-scor­ing Test. No other player on ei­ther side has passed 50. Af­ter start­ing the day un­beaten on 169, Mendis only man­aged an­other seven runs be­fore he played away from his body to a full length de­liv­ery from Mitchell Starc to be caught be­hind by wick­et­keeper Peter Nevill. Starc was the pick of the Aus­tralian bowlers, fin­ish­ing the in­nings with fig­ures of four for 84. Herath and Nuwan Pradeep added 30 runs for the last wicket off 29 de­liv­er­ies be­fore the Sri Lanka in­nings ended af­ter sub­sti­tute fielder Moises Hen­riques took a spec­tac­u­lar catch at ex­tra cover. Sri Lanka, who were 282 for six overnight, even­tu­ally man­aged to reach a to­tal of 353, 267 runs ahead of the Aus­tralians. It was a re­mark­able turn­around af­ter they con­ceded a first in­nings lead of 86 to the tourists who were presented with the mace as the world’s num­ber one team on the eve of the match. Much of their hopes of vic­tory will rest on the shoul­ders of the 38-year-old Herath, who took four wick­ets in the first in­nings and has a rep­u­ta­tion of clean­ing up on the last day in home Tests. The sec­ond Test will be held in Galle from Au­gust 4-8 and the third in Colombo from Au­gust 13-17. — AFP.

Steve Smith

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