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December 15, 2012
Sri Lanka 4 for 87 (Dilshan 50*) trail Australia 5 for 450 dec (Hussey 115*, Hughes 87, Clarke 74, Wade 68*, Warner 57, Welegedara 3-130) by 363 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
On a rainy day in Hobart, Australia tightened their grip on the first Test considerably thanks to Michael Hussey's third century of the summer, a bold declaration from Michael Clarke, and a quartet of top-order wickets, including Sri Lanka's two best batsmen. When stumps was called at 6.40pm, the day lengthened considerably to make up time lost to wet weather earlier, the Sri Lankans were 4 for 87, still trailing by 363, and they were relying heavily on Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was on 50.
Dilshan had looked solid, striking eight boundaries, and was especially strong when crunching the ball through point. Mitchell Starc had not provided the level of control Clarke wanted from his new-ball bowler, leaking a few too many runs, but the rest of the attack was tight and drew mistakes from the Sri Lankans, most importantly from Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, neither of whom had any real impact.
Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, both of whom missed Australia's previous Test against South Africa in Perth, struck early blows, finding handy seam movement on the Bellerive Oval pitch. Hilfenhaus, whose weapon is typically swing, seamed a delivery across the left-hander Dimuth Karunaratne, whose thick edge was taken at shoulder height by Matthew Wade as the pitch showed some of the inconsistent bounce it had displayed on the first day.
The bigger blow came when Siddle enticed a drive from Sangakkara, who was on 4, and the thick edge was snapped up by Hussey at gully. That left Sri Lanka at 2 for 42 in response to Australia's 450, and things got worse for the visitors when Shane Watson nipped a ball back in to Jayawardene, who was adjudged lbw for 12. After a few glances back at the stumps to see how far forward he was, Jayawardene asked for a review, but replays did not save him.
If that wasn't trouble enough for Sri Lanka, the loss of Thilan Samaraweera for 7 at the end of the day's play was another major concern. Samaraweera cut hard at Nathan Lyon and the extra bounce surprised the batsman, whose edge was taken on the second grab by Wade, and stumps was promptly called. Wickets had punctuated the Sri Lankan innings far too frequently for their liking, and they closed the day still 164 runs away from avoiding the follow-on.
Captains can be reluctant to enforce the follow-on if their bowlers have had a heavy workload, but if Clarke's men are able to knock over the Sri Lankans cheaply on the third day, he will be seriously tempted to send them in again, given the possibility of further showers over the course of the match. Wet weather had delayed the start of the day's play by 50 minutes and also caused a lengthy postponement straight after lunch, and the delays might have encouraged Clarke to call an early end to Australia's innings.
The brisk rate at which Hussey and Matthew Wade scored after lunch helped make the decision a little easier though, and Clarke called the batsmen in at 5 for 450 with about half an hour left until tea. The Hussey-Wade partnership reached 146 by the end of the innings and the boundaries had started to flow in the later stages as Sri Lanka struggled to find any way into the lower order.
Hussey was even willing to go for his strokes as his century approached and it nearly cost him, for on 96 he pulled Shaminda Eranga and should have been caught at deep midwicket, only to breathe a sigh of relief when the ball spilled out of the hands of Angelo Mathews and bounced over the boundary.
That brought up Hussey's century from his 171st delivery and it was his fourth Test hundred in 2012, the most he has ever managed in a calendar year. Generally his pulling was crisp and effective and after he reached his milestone, another pull off Eranga whistled off the bat and over the fence for his only six. He ended up unbeaten on 115 and had strong support from Wade, who finished on 68.
Wade's half-century came from his 119th delivery with a quick single and he was strong through the off side, a couple of cover-drives for four among his highlights. In his first Test innings on the ground on which he grew up playing his club cricket, Wade was cautious before lunch as the Australians aimed to consolidate following the early loss of Clarke, who was taken at first slip for 74 when Eranga nipped a ball away off the seam.
That breakthrough came in the third over of the day but the Sri Lankans didn't manage to put together the string of wickets they really needed, although they had a chance to get rid of Wade on 20 when he pulled Chanaka Welegedara and the ball whizzed through the fingers of the substitute fielder Suraj Randiv at midwicket. The ball was flying but Randiv, typically a very reliable fielder, had a genuine chance to make the catch stick, but instead it raced away and became Wade's first boundary.
It was the kind of chance the Sri Lankans could not afford to miss, given how few opportunities were created. By the close of play, it was up to Dilshan and the lower middle-order batsmen to ensure Australia weren't given too many chances either.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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