Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 December 19, 2012

Last-day pitch a 'minefield' - SL coach

Given Sri Lanka's history in Hobart, a target of 393 in the first Test was not out of reach in the four sessions available to them. In 2007, Kumar Sangakkara's 192 had propelled the visitors to 410, but in 2012, chances of an upset win evaporated soon after Sri Lanka's openers took guard on the fourth day. A fissured pitch spat up steepling brutes and ankle-high shooters with equal abandon making even survival a daunting prospect.

"If we just look at the last day, I am unbelievably proud of the performance the boys put in," Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, said. "That surface really became a minefield. It was very difficult. Australia got the ball to reverse swing considerably. If you look at probably just about every dismissal, it took a real cracker of a delivery to get the batsman out. As a coach you can't really ask for much more from your troops the way the boys battled out there.

"It was an entertaining Test match and a lot happened. Lots of runs scored, bowlers took five-wicket hauls and it went down to the last hour. If you look at all of that, one feels that it was a good pitch. But looking at the way the ball behaved on day five, you have to say that it was a lot more in favour of the bowlers than it was for the batters and perhaps a little bit unfairly so."

On day five, the northwest breeze helped widen the cracks and make the pitch more volatile with each session. In the morning, Shane Watson got a ball to jag back hard off the surface to hit Kumar Sangakkara on the pads. Only a review, showing the ball had hit him outside the line of off stump, allowed Sangakkara to continue. In the afternoon, Thilan Samaraweera was similarly reprieved when a ball spurted beneath his bat from a length to hit him low on the shin - again outside off stump.

As the day wore on, even Nathan Lyon's seemingly innocuous deliveries started darting around, while the fast men repeatedly hit the batsmen, getting the ball to either rear up off a fuller length or bounce much lower than the batsmen expected off a shorter length. Angelo Mathews attempted to duck under a Mitchell Starc bouncer, but ended up getting hit on the elbow, while Nuwan Kulasekara and Prasanna Jayawardene wore balls on the ribcage. 

Mahela Jayawardene was less critical of the surface, but did say the pitch played unpredictably on the fifth day.

"It was a challenging wicket. Before the Test started a lot of things were spoken about this wicket and it was suggested teams wouldn't last for three days. We battled it out for five days. The plates were moving towards the latter part of the Test match."

Sri Lanka had been well placed to draw the Test at tea on day five, having lost only one batsman in each preceding session in the day, which they began at 65 for 2. Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's form batsman, was at the crease with Thilan Samaraweera at the start of the final session of the match. A loose drive from Mathews however ended their resistance, and began the sequence that saw Sri Lanka slide to defeat with 10.4 overs remaining in the Test. 

"Tea time, it was pretty much even," Jayawardene said. "They knew they had to pick up early wickets soon after tea. We had 30 or 35 overs to bat. We had two batsmen in, and it was a situation where we had to bat an hour and a half with those two guys somehow, and we probably would have pushed them [Australia] back and they would have had to use all their main bowlers. We lost two wickets soon after tea in the space of six or seven overs, and that lifted things up for them. That was probably crucial. They played good cricket throughout the Test match and deserved to be in that position."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent