Sri Lanka in trouble in big chase

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Old 02-Sep-2011
Harpreet Seehra
Sri Lanka in trouble in big chase

Sri Lanka 105 and 120 for 5 (M Jayawardene 57*, Harris 3-24) need another 259 runs to beat Australia 273 and 210 (Clarke 60, Herath 5-79)

Mahela Jayawardene was standing between Australia and a comprehensive win in Galle, where at stumps on the third day Ryan Harris had bowled the visitors within five wickets of victory. Chasing a highly unlikely 379, Sri Lanka closed the day at 120 for 5, still 259 runs short of their target, with Jayawardene on 57 and Angelo Mathews on 32.

Full report to follow

Ryan Harris put Australia on the path towards victory with two early wickets as Sri Lanka's batting woes continued on the third day in Galle. Sri Lanka needed 379 for an unlikely win, which would be their highest successful chase in Test history, but after losing Tharanga Paranavitana off the first ball of the innings, and then the captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, they were in major trouble at tea.

Their best batsmen were at the crease, with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene both on 11, but at 34 for 2 Sri Lanka needed a miracle to avoid defeat on a wearing pitch. Rain had delayed the start of the day's play until after lunch, but it seemed only further downpours would rescue Sri Lanka over the weekend.

Harris gave Australia the best possible start in the field after their lower order added 95 valuable runs to their overnight score. Paranavitana was adjudged lbw off the first ball of the innings and decided against reviewing Aleem Dar's decision, which is usually the wisest course of action, but on this occasion he would have been saved as the ball pitched a fraction outside leg.

Sangakkara survived an equally confident shout from the Australians off the next delivery, and they did review Dar's not-out call only to discover the ball had again pitched a hair's breadth outside leg. It wasn't long, though, until Harris struck again, nipping the ball off the seam and through the big gap between bat and pad left by Dilshan, who for the second time in the match set his team-mates a terrible example.

Application was required and Australia's lower order had shown that runs could still be scored on the dusty surface. Following the early dismissal of Mitchell Johnson, who top-edged an attempted slog sweep off Rangana Herath, the final three pairs added 80 runs.

Usman Khawaja looked much less nervous than in the first innings and made a composed 26, which featured some fine footwork against the spinners. He advanced to Herath and drove handsomely for a boundary through cover, and lofted a six over long-on off Suraj Randiv, in both cases smothering the turn by getting to the pitch of the ball.

It took the introduction of Chanaka Welegedara to end Khawaja's stay with an inswinger, the batsman plumb lbw as he walked across his stumps. However, Harris, Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon kept the runs flowing, Harris striking the ball confidently in his 23 until he delivered a caught-and-bowled to Herath, who finished with a career-best 5 for 79.

Copeland (23 not out) and Lyon (13) put on 32 for the final wicket, sweeping like a pair of janitors as Herath bowled too far down the leg side. The last wicket came when Lyon skied a catch to long-on off Dilshan, but by then the Sri Lankans had already lost any realistic chance of victory.

Their best fourth-innings chase was 352 against South Africa in Colombo five years ago, and after Harris' early strikes, that record didn't look like being broken in Galle.

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