• Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 3rd day

Australia tighten grip on Test

The Report by Siddhartha Talya
January 5, 2013 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
Sri Lanka 294 and 225 for 7 (Karunaratne 85, Jayawardene 60) lead Australia 432 for 9 dec (Wade 102*, Hughes 87, Herath 4-95) by 87 runs
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Matthew Wade struck his second Test ton and his first at home © Getty Images
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Australia tightened their hold on the Sydney Test on the third day and stand an excellent chance of sealing a clean sweep against Sri Lanka. Matthew Wade scored his second Test century in front of a raucous crowd engulfing the venue in a sea of pink on Jane McGrath day, and stretched his team's lead to 138 before Michael Clarke declared. Half-centuries from Dimuth Karunaratne and Mahela Jayawardene gave Sri Lanka hope, not just of recovery but even putting Australia under pressure in the fourth innings, but much of it was crushed by a middle-order implosion in good conditions for batting.

The opener Karunaratne and captain Jayawardene had taken Sri Lanka to within six runs of erasing the deficit, after the early loss of Tillakaratne Dilshan, but Australia wrested the control they had achieved at the end of their innings. Karunaratne, let off on 54 but solid for the bulk, drove at a fullish, reverse-swinging, delivery from Jackson Bird in the final session to feather one to the keeper. Hot Spot didn't capture any heat signature - Karunaratne did not call for a review after being given out - but Snicko later indicated there may have been a nick. Sri Lanka still had the batting to guide them to a competitive lead but much of the damage they suffered from then on was self-inflicted.

Lahiru Thirimanne impressed with 91 in the first innings but failed while trying to hook a quick, short ball from Mitchell Johnson, top-edging it to fine leg. Thilan Samaraweera, inexplicably and totally out of character, charged out to Nathan Lyon third ball, only to miscue it to Michael Hussey, who took a well-judged catch running back from mid-off. Angelo Mathews called and ran after playing one to midwicket but met an unresponsive Jayawardene, who stayed his ground as David Warner dived, collected and returned an accurate throw to Wade to catch the batsman short. When Jayawardene nicked a wide one from Peter Siddle to first slip, Sri Lanka had lost five wickets for 46 runs, leaving Dinesh Chandimal and the tail too much to achieve to test the hosts.

Smart stats

  • Matthew Wade's century is the tenth by a wicketkeeper in Tests against Sri Lanka and the second by an Australian wicketkeeper after Adam Gilchrist's 144 in 2004.
  • Wade's century is his second in Tests after his 106 in West Indies in 2012. It is also the third century scored by an Australian wicketkeeper in Sydney and the fifth overall by wicketkeepers at the venue.
  • The 77-run stand between Wade and Peter Siddle is the joint third-highest stand for the seventh wicket for Australia in Tests against Sri Lanka. The highest is 129 between Ian Healy and Greg Matthews in 1992.
  • Dimuth Karunaratne's 85 is the second-highest score by a Sri Lankan batsman in Tests at the SCG. The highest is Lahiru Thirimanne's 91 which was made in the first innings of this Test.
  • The century stand between Karunaratne and Mahela Jayawardene is the 11th for Sri Lanka in Tests in Australia and the first in Sydney. It is also the third-highest second-wicket stand for Sri Lanka against Australia.

Australia were largely disciplined when they bowled but that didn't prevent Karunaratne and Jayawardene from scoring fluently, both displaying ease and confidence in their century stand. The only threat of discomfort on the pitch for the batsmen was some uneven bounce, but Karunaratne set the tone for the stand as early as the first over. Karunaratne has a tall frame, doesn't have too much flourish in his shot-making, but showed he is especially strong on the off side while being an excellent timer of the ball. He dispatched Mitchell Starc for two boundaries in the first over, chopping him past point then driving a half-volley past mid-off.

The seamers tried to bowl tight lines but occasionally provided width, allowing Karunaratne to be expansive. He scored freely through cover and point, and drove well on the up against Starc, whom he took for four boundaries. He even stepped out to Nathan Lyon, launching him for a six and four past long-on. Jayawardene looked assured, worked the ball around for singles and twos despite the field being brought in and collected boundaries with ease. He scored off Starc on either side behind the wicket, and pulled well, cracking Starc and Bird for fours through square leg. But his own anxiety and frustration grew as he saw two of his partners throw their wickets away, and it wasn't long before he, too, made his way back.

The role played by Wade, who found able partners in Siddle and Bird, in extending the lead to 138 acquired greater significance once Sri Lanka's batting began to unravel after tea. The hundred was still a distant landmark for Wade when the day began, as the priority appeared to be improving Australia's position from one of a slight advantage to greater control. Wade was busy, running hard and occasionally attempting the aggressive shot, but also timed the ball superbly, his first four being just a punch past point off Suranga Lakmal. Siddle fell when he edged Nuwan Pradeep to the keeper - ending a 77-run stand for the seventh wicket - and Rangana Herath hit back with two wickets in quick succession.

Three men in the deep on the off side were not enough to prevent Wade from slicing Pradeep over point as he stepped up his attacking game further with just one wicket in hand; as he watched the field move back in, he picked up a boundary past gully by opening the face. He smashed Pradeep over extra cover, then neatly clipped him past midwicket for two more fours. Bird, at the other end, not only survived but scored during his short stay, long enough for Wade to reach his landmark. In what was to be the last over of the innings, Wade pierced a packed off-side field in the deep to cream Lakmal for two fours, the second of which brought up his century and sparked wild celebrations with an expectant SCG joining in.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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