Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke's dashing half-century at Blundstone Arena on Monday afternoon may have come at a huge cost, with the Australian skipper leaving the field with a strained right hamstring in the midst of another batting masterclass against Sri Lanka.

Clarke had raced to a second half-century in the match from just 43 deliveries, playing to all parts of the ground in compiling his 57 and again underlining his credentials as the world's form batsman in a sparkling display.

But he was soon forced from the field following a consultation with team physio Alex Kountouris in the middle of the ground.

Tea was taken early with Australia forced to declare at 9-278 in their second innings, giving the hosts a 392-run lead with four sessions remaining in the match.

But with Clarke hurt and Ben Hilfenhaus batting despite a side strain that will rule him out of taking any further part in the match, the home side may not feel totally comfortable with the lead.

Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (5-95) put a wobble in the Australian innings with three wickets either side of lunch as the home side fell from 0-132 to 5-181 at one stage.

The dangerous left-arm tweaker also overtook England's Graeme Swann as the leading Test wicket taker for 2012 in running through the Australians with Hilfenhaus his 60th victim for the calendar year. However Swann may get the chance to over-take Herath once more as the fourth Test between India and England has a day remaining.

After David Warner (68) and Ed Cowan (56) had chalked up their second century stand at the top of the Australian order, the home side looked to chase runs and paid the price with a series of cheap dismissals.

Shane Watson (five) looked out of sorts against Herath, surviving a couple of tight lbw decisions before playing all around an arm ball as Prasanna Jayawardene whipped off the bails when the Australian's toe slid beyond the crease.

Shaminda Eranga (1-53) chipped in to nick Phil Hughes (16) out with a ball that cramped the left-hander around off stump, before Herath had Matthew Wade (11) caught in the deep.

The wicketkeeper had found himself promoted to bat at five as Australia chased runs ahead of a declaration, but when he was dismissed they'd lost 5-49 and it appeared as though any target Clarke had in mind might still be hard to make.

With the occasional ball shooting low and Herath extracting turn from a wearing fourth day surface, Sri Lanka still have a huge task ahead of them.

But in Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and first-innings centurion Tillakaratne Dilshan they have bucket loads of class and enough experience to mount a solid chase against a weakened Australian attack.

The ever-dependable Michael Hussey (31 not out) eked out valuable late runs alongside Nathan Lyon (11), but the Australian off-spinner became Herath's fourth victim for the day when he missed an attempted sweep.

Sri Lanka mounted a brave chase on their last visit to Hobart in 2007 and there's every indication this Test is set to go right down to the wire on Tuesday afternoon.


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