Australia polish off Sri Lanka

Sportal December 18, 2012, 6:44 pm
Mitchell Starc

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A career-best haul from Victorian paceman Peter Siddle has given Australia the impetus required to overcome a courageous Sri Lanka in the first Test in Hobart and secure a hard-fought win.

On a day when he was under the spotlight for allegedly tampering with the ball on his way to a first-innings 5-54, Siddle produced a valiant 4-50 from 26 overs to complete match figures of 9-104 and propel Australia to a long-awaited first Test win of the summer.

Mitchell Starc (5-63) cranked up the pace and aggression late in the day to burn through the tail and see Australia dismiss the visitors for 255, completing the 137-run win when he had Shaminda Eranga caught behind for six with 10.4 overs remaining in the match.

Only four Sri Lankan wickets had fallen before tea on the fifth day in Hobart but when Siddle snared the important scalp of Thilan Samaraweera (49), effectively removing Sri Lanka's last remaining specialist batsman, momentum had swung decisively and the injury-hit Aussies moved in for the kill.

However, the hosts were still made to fight all the way by a brave Sri Lankan outfit desperate not to go behind in the three-match series.

Siddle bowled with unerring accuracy and control, repeatedly hitting his line and length and leaving the opposition in two minds, given the inconsistent bounce and reverse swing he managed to extract on the wearing Blundstone Arena surface.

Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews (19) resumed after tea and had added an even 50 when Mathews momentarily lost his head and his wicket as a result.

Steaming in from the Church Street end, Siddle tempted the all-rounder into a loose prod outside off stump from the final ball of his 21st over and teamed with Matthew Wade behind the stumps for his eighth scalp of the match.

With runs a non-issue, Clarke had set an extremely aggressive field for the run home every player called in to a catching position as Australia began the squeeze with seven men crowding the bat for Nathan Lyon (0-57).

Despite this, Samaraweera somehow managed to elude Phil Hughes at silly-point when he fended at a leaping Shane Watson (1-54) delivery that caught him high on the bat.

Seemingly rattled, the 36-year-old sparred at a Siddle ball in the next over and was again lucky not to have feathered a catch behind the wicket.

As it was, his defiance ended three deliveries later when the ball ducked back off a length and trapped him on the crease, seemingly plumb in front.

Samaraweera reluctantly used Sri Lanka's last available review possibly aware of the likely outcome and umpire Nigel Llong's decision was upheld, Sri Lanka falling to 6-218 and looking shaky for the first time all day.

Starc was brought back to rest Siddle with 22 overs remaining in an increasingly tense day and repaid his skipper by having Prasanna Jayawardene (21) caught by Michael Hussey at second slip.

He was unlucky not to have Nuwan Kulasekara (nine) in his next over as Shane Watson failed to take a low chance at slip that appeared to hit him on the left foot, but Wade pouched the next chance to come along, giving Starc his third for the innings and bringing the win ever closer.

Rangana Herath (eight) somehow kept Starc out for 43 brave minutes but was eventually undone when a yorker deflected off his pad and ran back onto the stumps, barely hard enough to dislodge the bails.

Eranga was last to go, fending at Starc to give Wade his fourth catch of the innings and to complete the left-arm quick's second five-wicket haul in two matches.

Earlier in the day, news of an informal complaint from Sri Lankan team management regarding Siddle's alleged ball tampering during the first innings had surfaced, threatening to cast an unsavoury pall over the final day's play.

An ICC statement confirmed match referee Chris Broad had been made aware of the purported incident but that no formal complaint had been lodged.

In another unexpected happening on a gripping afternoon, Clarke decided to back his cricketing intuition leading in to tea by throwing the ball to wicketkeeper Wade for the last over of the session.

While Wade couldn't reward his captain's hunch with a wicket, he did provide fans on a sparsely populated hill with something to tell their friends about as the match appeared to be drifting towards a draw.

It was the first time an Australian keeper had bowled since Rod Marsh did so against Pakistan at the MCG in 1983 a day when all 11 Aussies took their turn with the ball but the moment was soon forgotten about as the absorbing final session took shape.

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