Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 5th day December 18, 2012

Desperation turns to jubilation

Australia were stretched to the maximum, but in finding a way to win in Hobart they took a significant step in developing the belief that will be required for the tours of India and England

Desperation is giving the wicketkeeper the ball in the last over before tea on the final day of a Test match. Jubilation is winning the same match in the final hour having played a considerable portion of it with only nine fit men.

Australia were stretched to the maximum by injuries and a plucky touring team, but in finding a way to deliver a victory in Hobart they took a significant step in developing the belief that will be required for the tours of India and England that follow this summer. This was a result worth savouring, for after the travails of the series against South Africa, Michael Clarke's team were in need of some proof that they were progressing.

On the final day, Sri Lanka's opposition was less of an obstacle than the hosts' own doubts and fears, having seen the Adelaide Test slip away in very similar circumstances. The celebrations were all the more enthusiastic for the knowledge of how painful and costly it can be to draw a match that is there for the winning.

Such a conclusion seemed a long way distant when the hobbling captain Michael Clarke tossed the ball to Matthew Wade. Not since Rod Marsh shuffled in for two overs against Pakistan in the closing stages of a bore draw at the MCG in 1983 had an Australian gloveman been so laterally employed. Not since never had an Australian Test 'keeper been asked to try to break a pesky partnership in a match still well and truly alive.

That over drew plenty of raised eyebrows among the few spectators prepared to journey to Bellerive Oval on the final afternoon, but it also sent something of a message from Clarke to his bowlers. To that point, on a pitch offering generous assistance in the way of variable bounce, they had managed only two wickets in two sessions, albeit those of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and Thilan Samaraweera remained in stony occupation alongside Angelo Mathews.

Impeded as he was by a hamstring strain, Clarke was unable to bowl himself, and so it was left to Peter Siddle to find the extra gear to tilt the match. As he had done so manfully in Adelaide, Siddle led the attack with bowling of intelligence as well as spirit, and in ripping out Samaraweera and Mathews after the interval finished the work he had done on the top order earlier in the day when dismissing Jayawardene and Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka still had four wickets in hand when Siddle, exhausted once more, had to give up possession of the ground's northern end. At this moment Australia were to be provided with encouragement that their investment in the future, via the inclusion of Mitchell Starc, was paying dividends. At 22, Starc is prodigiously talented and increasingly durable, but not yet capable of putting it all together for extended periods. His best spells to date - if they can be called that - have been short bursts of an over or three, befitting his outstanding returns in recent times as a Twenty20 bowler.

But he was to make a significant advance here, producing another hostile effort to account for Prasanna Jayawardene with a delivery that reared enough to take a glove into the slips cordon. Previously in this match he had been unable to follow up one wicket with another, delivering overs too generous given his potential to send down the sorts of offerings that no batsman appreciates. This time, he was able to sustain his speed and direction, clattering through the visitors' tail so swiftly that the match was won with more than 10 overs to spare - an unlikely prospect at tea.

It's going to take some time for us to put into place areas of our game that we think need improvement. Today's a good start and this Test match is a good start
Michael Clarke

"The boys learned a lot, that if we kept digging in, kept digging in, we did come close in Adelaide but just fell short, we knew if we could keep pushing right to the end that we could get on top," Siddle said. "From that lunch the other day, from then until now it's been outstanding, just the whole unit, everyone together, the process with a bowler down. It's credit to us, the way we've prepared, the way we've gone about it, and performed for the team to get the end result."

For Clarke, this was a vindication of his decision to stay out on the field despite his hamstring injury, marshalling the team with his usual verve, and overseeing the capture of a first Test victory of the home summer. His pre-match measure of the team's progress had more to do with how individuals fulfilled their roles than whether or not Sri Lanka were beaten, but the fact that the team was able to close out the match will help. He also reserved significant praise for his deputy Shane Watson, who may now lead Australia on Boxing Day. While he had only the wicket of Tillakaratne Dilshan to show for it, Watson's 27 overs were vital to sustaining the hosts' push for a win, and Clarke knew it.

"There's no doubt we learned, we've learned a lot from the South Africa series," Clarke said. "We've seen to compete against the best you have to be at your best for the whole five days, you can't afford to give a good opposition like South Africa or Sri Lanka a session, let alone a day, so I think we've learned that lesson. It's going to take some time for us to put into place areas of our game that we think need improvement. Today's a good start and this Test match is a good start. Having the extra bowler today compared to Adelaide played a big part, Watto bowled 27 overs, I would've loved those overs in Adelaide, whether that be through Patto or Watto.

"But I think our bowlers deserve a lot of credit. I think Starcy was outstanding once again, I think Watto did a magnificent job and so did Nathan Lyon. Their job is probably a bit underrated, but I thought the work they did in building pressure, bowling a lot of dot balls was fantastic."

Siddle deservedly took the match award, but it was Starc who claimed the final wicket, drawing a thin edge from Shaminda Eranga. The man who threw the ball skywards was none other than Wade, now reinstated in a far more familiar role than the one he had performed before tea. As the team converged in a joyous huddle, the substitute Jordan Silk and the hamstrung captain among them, they had the memory of Wade's over to remind them of how far they had come - from desperation to jubilation.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sugar on December 19, 2012, 18:43 GMT

    @PhaniBhaskar24.. oh the wonders of the if's & but's of the Indian fan's mentality going to any length to put their country on a pedestal by bashing their neighbors !! really buddy please stay away from comments like those you are only painting a whole country with the same brush. please go & comment on the ENG Vs IND thread shall we? we really did have a great test here ..BTW if punter didn't declare @that score (brilliant declaration bythe way!) with only 11.4 overs to go there wouldn't have been a win. go and learn something about cricket first at least read the score card properly

  • Mark on December 19, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    Sri Lanka are a good team. Congratulations Australia. Australia are a good team.

  • narsimha on December 19, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    getsetgo- yaa tast time u r team visited AUS PL CHECK THE STATS 3-0, 5-0 , u r great bowler hiding in full sleeves was thrashed to all corners of that continent ave-111,

  • rob on December 19, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    @ FFL: ah yes, I see. .. very sneaky. .. good to see that not even an Englishman can be that bi-polar. .. and by the way, where's our thank you card for softening the Indians up for you? God knows you couldn't have done it without us.

  • Graham on December 19, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    Front-Foot_Lunge - I'm happy to give you world best opening batsman and certainly your seamer is in the top 2. But your wicket keeper/batsman and Spinner are certainly not the worlds best.

  • disco on December 19, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @lansiya, really mate, life is not that serious. Cricket would be the poorer without a bit of larrikan sledging. Put a mars bar on a good length; classic.

  • Phani on December 19, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    I don't think, Srilanke pulled to the last minute..its in face, Aus were playing for a win..if not 450 dec in first innings, where there are set batsmen..srilanka would have been a innings defeat or if they played draw, that would be called Srilanke pulled it really well...way to Aus

  • j on December 19, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    @dunger.bob, @mikey76, He means he's pessimistic about Australia's chances in next year's Ashes, and why wouldn't he be? He's an aussie fan, joined this site two years after I did but decided to adopt my name with a lowercase lat 'l' (they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..) The difficult thing for him is at the moment England have the world best test opener, spinner, seamer & wicket/keeper batsman, and as any AUSSIE fan will tell you, are streets ahead of Australia, as has been the norm for so many years now. He's finding it tough in these conditions right now, hence his posts have dropped considerably over the last few months and all but vanished for the last few weeks. Good times for a true English fan :)

  • Warks on December 19, 2012, 7:46 GMT

    Lyon bowls well when the opposition is trying to score runs and he gets wickets. When they are stonewalling he just rushes his overs and still worries about runs when they don't matter. Someone should tell him he can buy a wicket sometimes.

    This win a start but Aus have way too many injury worries and bringing in T20 players at this time of year is no help.

  • Christian on December 19, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    Steve, Phil Hughes kept wicket while Wade was bowling

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