Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney

Thirimanne pushes Sri Lanka to 294

The Report by Brydon Coverdale

January 3, 2013

Comments: 117 | Text size: A | A

Sri Lanka 294 (Thirimanne 91, Jayawardene 72, Bird 4-41, Starc 3-71) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jackson Bird celebrates a wicket, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2013
Jackson Bird picked up 4 for 41 © AFP

Six days ago, while the Sri Lankans were capitulating to lose the Boxing Day Test, Lahiru Thirimanne was back home in Sri Lanka enjoying a day off in between one-day commitments for Ragama. He must have been as surprised as anyone to find himself batting on the opening day of a Test match at the SCG less than a week later. Thirimanne acclimatised to his new role quickly and although he narrowly missed out on a maiden Test century, he ensured Sri Lanka were able to bat until stumps. Just.

At the close of play, the Sri Lankans had just been dismissed for 294. It could have been better had Thirimanne or Mahela Jayawardene, who both made half-centuries, gone on to triple figures. But it could also have been much worse after the Sri Lankans were sent in by Michael Clarke, who had chosen four fast bowlers on a pitch tinged with green grass. Jackson Bird finished with 4 for 41 and Mitchell Starc bounced back from his rest over the Christmas period with 3 for 71, and while it took until nearly 6pm, Clarke would have been pleased to end the day with the Sri Lankans all out.

For a while, that appeared unlikely as Thirimanne and Jayawardene steered Sri Lanka to 2 for 134, and later the score was 4 for 222. But once Australia's bowlers found their way into the tail, the end came quickly. The final five wickets fell for 44 and a briefly entertaining last-wicket stand of 21 between Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep had the unexpected benefit for Australia of allowing Ed Cowan and David Warner to start their innings on the second morning instead of late on the first evening.

Pradeep finished on 17 not out, his highest first-class score, and Lakmal was the last man out when he edged to slip for 5 off the bowling of Bird. It was the third catch of the day for the retiring Michael Hussey, who also put one down early in Jayawardene's innings. Bird had also picked up the wicket of Rangana Herath, who skied a catch to mid-off for 5, shortly after the last of the recognised batsmen, Dinesh Chandimal, was superbly yorked by Starc for 24.

Starc had been involved in the previous wicket as well, when he took a diving catch at mid-on to get rid of Dhammika Prasad, whose heaving pull off Peter Siddle was a shot deserving of a dismissal. Another fine catch had brought Prasad to the crease, when Thirimanne, on 91, was deceived by Nathan Lyon. Thirimanne drove hard at a ball that was wider than he expected, and his edge lobbed up towards point and was brilliantly taken by a diving David Warner.

It was a disappointing end for Thirimanne, who was initially scratchy and struggled to rotate the strike, but found his touch as the innings wore on. Thirimanne would not have played this match but for Sri Lanka suffering two injuries to their top seven. Chandimal, the backup batsman in the squad, came in for Kumar Sangakkara and when Prasanna Jayawardene was also ruled out due to his broken thumb, it allowed Thirimanne to play his eighth Test.

He was impressive in his 151-ball innings and scored 13 fours and one six. He drove with authority and used his feet to Lyon, also pulling strongly against the fast bowling. Thirimanne had been fortunate to make it that far; he was given out lbw for a golden duck when Bird bowled full and straight, but after some consideration Thirimanne asked for a review and was reprieved as replays indicated the ball had pitched a fraction outside leg stump.

Jaywardene also had a lucky break early. On 4, he edged Siddle to second slip and Hussey was slow to react to a chance he should have taken, and managed only to get his left hand to the ball, which then ran away to the boundary. It was a very similar shot that brought Jayawardene his half-century, another edge that this time bounced just in front of Hussey before running to third man for four. It ended a three-year drought for Jayawardene, who had last made a Test fifty away from home in November 2009.

He was fluent in his 110-ball innings, which featured 12 fours and a six. He was strong through point and when flicking through the leg side, and he also used his feet Lyon. However, on 72 Jayawardene was caught at slip driving hard at a Starc delivery angled across him and after the third umpire checked for a no-ball and found Starc's heel had landed legally and then slid forward, it was the end of an encouraging 62-run stand for Sri Lanka.

Thilan Samaraweera (12) and Angelo Mathews (15) both made starts but failed to go on; Samaraweera was plumb lbw to Siddle and Mathews edged Starc to Hussey at second slip. It was a busy day in the field for Hussey, who had brought about the first wicket of the day when Dimuth Karunaratne (5) went for a pull from just outside off stump and top-edged Bird high and over the slips cordon and was taken by Hussey, running back with the flight of the ball from second slip.

Bird, the best of Australia's bowlers, also got rid of Karunaratne's opening partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan, who occupied the crease for 100 minutes before he was caught behind for 34. They were the only two wickets the Australians picked up in the first session, but by stumps the bowlers had done what Clarke wanted. Now, it's up to Australia's shortened batting line-up.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Ragav999 on (January 5, 2013, 2:46 GMT)

Lyon might be the best spinner in Australia and it is true that except Warne, no spinner has done well in Australia in the last 2 decades. Since Australia is so spinner unfriendly as history has demonstrated, why shouldn't Australia go with the 4 quicks even though the quicks may not be as fearsome/consistent as McGrath or Akram. At least they might provide the extra edge required to win those close games that are drawn or lost. In this period of transition and top few teams so closely matched, Australia need to gain every advantage possible to become the best.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 4, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

FFL - I remember 4 years ago as well when COok was a walking wicket to Johnson I believe 4 times. If you think Hughes is Anderson bunny considering he was only out once to Anderson you must be worried about the Johnson dominance over Cook on English soil. Also BTW Johnson average was much better than Jimmy Anderson that series. Its nice that your main bowler averaged 45 the last time we played in England and using your logic that players dont approve looks like England are in for some trouble.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (January 4, 2013, 0:20 GMT)

Ed Cowan shows what a league of amateurs the top order is. Running yourself out because your're lacking in skill in fitness is good enough for Australia these days unable as they are to have their own Alistair Cook. Anderson will yet again be aching to bowl at Hughes, whose technique hasn't changed at all since 2009. That was four years ago. The Ashes look permanently safe at the home of cricket.

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (January 4, 2013, 0:01 GMT)

What's with all the run outs in the Australian top order lately? Cowan or Hughes seem to have a hand in all of them. Sort it out fellas, you're not club cricketers and you're wasting starts.

Posted by Moppa on (January 3, 2013, 23:52 GMT)

@elle119, like Jono Makim, I enthusiastically agree with your comment. As average as Johnson was, I think he outbowled Starc, who for me was disappointingly inconsistent. Looking for Starc to blossom as a Test match bowler one day, but increasingly feeling like that day might not be until 2014 or 2015! @Jono Makim, I also agree, Clarke putting SL in was more driven by the Australian line-up, the SL hangover from Melbourne, and tactics than the pitch. If it was driven by the pitch, he, like most observers, misread it. Agree with many posters re it being a 'greentop' - LOL! @kc69, the series is already over mate, 2 up with 1 to play - put down your glasses. @Jono Makim, also agree re Lyon, he's doing alright but as @elle119 said just needs to slow it down a bit and work the batsmen out a bit more.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 3, 2013, 23:37 GMT)

Joseph Langford - You may prefer a bowler to take 5/50 of 10 overs rather than 0/20 of 10 - but you need to give test batsman some credit. 5/50of 10 overs is rarely going to happen, these batsman are of high quality and you need to strangle them out and as such Watto does his role with the ball. He may not be getting wickets but his partner is, however most times I have seen Watto bowl he looks like getting wickets regularly.

Posted by Chris_P on (January 3, 2013, 23:19 GMT)

@@Ragav999. Don't worry too much about Lyon. I have seen, too often the bottom halt our run at ending innings. And until another spinner sticks his hand up & presents a case, Lyon is the best option. He's no Murali, nor does he claim to be, he is still in learning mode & clearly the best option available. @Herath-UK. Take it from me, this is as far removed from a greentop as any Australian pitch.

Posted by   on (January 3, 2013, 23:12 GMT)

@Joseph, unfortunately Australia doesn't even have too many specialist bowlers capable of reeling off 5-50 too often! Much less an allrounder. For now I still think Australia is best suited to having a batting allrounder rather than a 5 man bowling attack with a couple of guys who are handy with the bat. I think our bowling is shaping as our strength, if Australia can't assemble a good attack from Pattinson, Siddle, Starc, Bird and company over the next two years then something has gone horribly wrong. On the other hand, I don't think now is the time to be shortening the batting line-up. While I think its getting better with every test, losing Hussey is the sort of loss that will only be seen in full once he is gone.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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