Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Hobart, 3rd day November 18, 2007

A hero's burden

Five visiting leaders have got centuries in Australia since 2001-02 and improved their standing. Mahela Jayawardene's stock is up, but his team remains down

Five visiting leaders have got centuries in Australia since 2001-02 and improved their standing. Mahela Jayawardene's stock is up, but his team remains down © Getty Images

Visiting captains carry an extra-large target when they come to Australia and if they can avoid being hit it enhances their reputation. Mahela Jayawardene deserves to be pleased with his stand-alone century - the swinging first pump showed how much it meant - but the personal achievement was diminished by another limp overall performance.

Surviving against a mean attack requires diligence and determination. Michael Vandort managed it once in the first Test and Jayawardene built on his starts in Brisbane to produce his defining innings against Australia. It was essential to prove there was more to his aims than vocal intent, but the job has barely started. Declining to enforce the follow-on, Australia reached a lead of 407 entering the fourth day. In private Jayawardene must want to weep.

Australia are buoyant and each segment of the side is wedged to back up the captain. Owning match-winners in most corners assists Ponting's pursuits, but Sri Lanka also carry a batch of stars who are fearless until lining up against green or gold caps. The returning Kumar Sangakkara flickered with 57, but the third-best collection was Marvan Atapattu's 25. Jayawardene had been let down again.

A stunning example of the lack of support for the captain came when Farveez Maharoof was run-out by his runner. Communication difficulties increase significantly when three batsmen are involved, but the breakdown between Mahela and Prasanna Jayawardene was preventable on a handful of occasions before the wicketkeeper was eventually caught short. The loss was made more horrible because Maharoof had batted in his normal position despite hobbling with a foot fracture.

Instead of winning help for his courage, Maharoof was cut loose by a colleague's mistake and his leader lost his last run-scoring ally. Jayawardene's effort with the tail was superb and he was able to push the total to 246. They needed at least another 200 to make the game safe.

Australia bowled extremely well again - Stuart Clark swung the ball deliciously and Brett Lee was a menace - but Jayawardene showed anything could be handled. There were imposing cover drives against the fast men and silky inside-out pushes off Stuart MacGill. A strong defence added to the all-round quality of the 104, which included two spilled catches in three balls from Lee as Jayawardene chased his century.

A cover-driven boundary off Lee was followed by a cut over slips for four, taking him to 97, and he repeated the previous shot to capture his 19th Test hundred and first against Australia. Unfortunately he will require an even bigger return in the second innings, especially if his partners continue their unproductive trend.

Jayawardene's worth as a leader was confirmed long before today, but he gains credibility for standing up to the Australians in their home. Five visiting leaders have got centuries here since 2001-02 and improved their standing. Jayawardene's stock is up, but his team remains down.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo