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Sri Lanka keeping Australia at bay

Sportal December 18, 2012, 12:56 pm
Kumar Sangakkara

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Australia faces an increasingly difficult task to win the first Test against Sri Lanka with just one wicket falling during the opening session on the final day in Hobart.

Despite regular bowling changes from Michael Clarke and a visibly wearing Blundstone Arena pitch, the Australian attack looked toothless until Peter Siddle (1-23) had Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene caught at slip for 19.

At the first break, Kumar Sangakkara was standing defiant on 58 not out and alongside Thilan Samarawera (17) had helped Sri Lanka to 3-144, most likely out of range for the win given the victory target is 393 but still in with a fighting chance of holding on for a draw.

Sangakkara survived a real scare 10 minutes before the break, successfully reviewing a Nigel Llong decision that had seen him given out to a shooting Shane Watson delivery angled in from around the wicket.

Later the same over, Samaraweera also had a close shave, the right-hander gloving a short ball down leg side and only just getting it past a diving Matthew Wade and to the fence at fine leg.

Having injured his hamstring batting on day four, Clarke took the field from the outset, rooted to his place at first slip and no doubt hoping for an early breakthrough to give the home side much-needed momentum.

But as rumour swirled regarding the emergence of ball-tampering allegations against Australian players earlier in the match, the home side's bowlers struggled to beat the broad blades being wielded by Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene (19).

The veteran pair, boasting 248 Test matches and more than 20,000 runs between them, stood defiant throughout the first hour of play and were looking increasingly well set on a wearing pitch as the session progressed.

But it was the brave Siddle that came to his nation's aid yet again, tempting Jayawardene into an open-bladed prod outside off stump that travelled low to Clarke's right at first slip and was duly pouched by the hamstrung captain.

Jayawardene had taken 24 deliveries to open his account late on day four and continued in circumspect fashion on Tuesday, occupying for 77 balls before falling prey to Siddle's probing line and length.

As the skipper trudged back to the pavilion, he was replaced by another experienced campaigner in Samaraweera, but the 36-year-old right-hander looked decidedly less comfortable than his captain during a close inspection from Mitchell Starc.

The tall left-arm quick was a tricky proposition from around the wicket at Blundstone Arena's Church Street end, angling the ball in and shaping it towards slip to twice beat Samaraweera's outside edge by a whisker.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon trundled away at the Southern End and despite getting the odd delivery to pop and spin, couldn't buy a breakthrough.

Clarke also tried the part-time leg-breaks of David Warner in a sign the Australian front-liners were in need of a break given the absence of injured paceman Ben Hilfenhaus.

Australia will have the option to take the new ball 10 overs after the break and the hour after lunch appears likely to reveal more about the likely outcome in this increasingly gripping encounter.

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