Sri Lanka edging closer

Sportal December 16, 2012, 3:44 pm
Tillakaratne Dilshan

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A record fifth wicket partnership between Tillakartne Dilshan (132 not out) and Angelo Mathews (75) has seen Sri Lanka continue to creep back into the contest on the third day of the first Test in Hobart.

The pair added 161 runs after resuming on Sunday morning, standing defiant in the face of an Australian attack minus the injured Ben Hilfenhaus and helping Sri Lanka close to within two runs of passing the follow on at tea with the score on 5-249.

Mathews was eventually removed by Peter Siddle, the Victorian spearhead capping a miserly spell by sneaking one through Mathews' defence and having his boisterous appeal upheld by umpire Tony Hill.

The Sri Lankan referred the decision upstairs but was found wanting by replays that suggested the ball was tracking towards the top of middle stump.

The big stand was Sri Lanka's fourth highest fifth wicket partnership of all time, the second greatest fifth wicket stand between the two nations and the record fifth wicket stand for all Tests at the Bellerive ground.

Prasanna Jayawardene, who is yet to score, joined Dilshan at the crease and the pair safely negotiated the final moments before tea.

Dilshan may have been lucky to survive to tea after Australian fielders showed only muted interest in a play-and-miss in Peter Siddle's 18th over, hot-spot replays suggesting the ball had actually feathered the outside edge en route to Matthew Wade behind the stumps.

Brought together when Thilan Samaraweera was caught behind from the last ball on the second day, the veteran Dilshan and captain-in-waiting Mathews plundered 100 runs before lunch was taken, but slowed considerably during the afternoon session.

Dilshan's century his second against Australia came up in 148 deliveries and with all but three of his 18 boundaries through the off side.

He was particularly savage on anything wide, freeing his hands and swinging in typically lusty fashion, the ball sliced dangerously close to slip and gully fieldsmen on a number of occasions but generally finding the rope.

Such was their ease at the crease early in the day, it wasn't until Nathan Lyon (1-43) returned to the attack in the hour after lunch that the Sri Lankan pair looked troubled.

Lyon extracted significant spin from areas of rough outside the right-hander's off stump and had Mathews bamboozled as the 25-year-old all-rounder searched for the five runs he needed to post his 11th Test half-century.

The South Australia off-spinner bowled 28 consecutive dot-balls to Mathews after lunch and may be considered unlucky not have made a breakthrough during a period of sustained pressure not seen during the morning.

Siddle (2-44) and Mitchell Starc (0-74) also probed after lunch, both beating the edge and adding to the frustration of an Australian side incapable of making a breakthrough and significantly hampered by the loss of Hilfenhaus (1-30) to a side strain early in the day.

Hilfenhaus was taken for scans on a suspected side strain and returned to Blundstone Arena after lunch, but it is not yet known when he'll return to the field if at all.

The situation is reminiscent of James Pattinson's injury early in the Adelaide Test and the loss of firepower may be felt more acutely later in the match as the Australians strive for their first Test win of the summer.

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