First session will be key, says Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara, whose magnificent unbeaten century has ensured Sri Lanka are still in the hunt in the second Test, admitted that the contest was not over yet.
Sri Lanka set an improbable fourth innings target of 507 for victory finished the fourth day promisingly placed at 247 for 3. They require 260 runs with seven wickets in hand going into the last day to pull off an upset win and level the series.
"You've got to be realistic that 507 is a massive ask. The direction in which we will go tomorrow is basically up to us," Sangakkara said. "If we can get through to lunch without losing a wicket depending on the amount of runs we get it becomes a lot clearer."
"I really don't want to be a soothsayer and say what will happen tomorrow but we always go into the middle with a lot of belief and we try our best. The bounce is just starting to get lower it would be a bit of concern for the batters. Other than that it is pretty much straight line with the ball. They probably bowl very good reverse [swing] at the end but if we can get through that again, the batters coming in will back themselves and be confident to get runs on this track.
"It would have been nice if we could have finished with one wicket or two wickets less. We were in a position to do that when Marvan [Atapattu] was batting pretty well, but we are still in it with a fight. We'll see how the first session goes tomorrow, if we can fight through that without losing a wicket then the day will look much better."
Without the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath and a out of sorts Stuart MacGill whose 16 overs cost 93 runs without success, Australia depended heavily on the pace of Brett Lee. He obliged his captain with two successive wickets in one over getting rid of Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene.
"The period leading upto Marvan's dismissal was probably one of the toughest that I've played with Brett running in and probably giving everything he had in that spell," said Sangakkara. "Australia was desperate for a wicket and Ricky [Ponting] turned to him. He managed to deliver what was asked of him. That was a magnificent contest between bat and ball unfortunately Marvan lost out at that point.
"One of the most enjoyable things was to be out there in a contest like that, battling it out and trying to get on top of a bowler like Brett. That was possibly the best passage of play of the Test match.
"The batters will always feel a lot more confident against any side that does not have Warnie and McGrath. When they were playing the batters enjoyed the contest, but to be fair we know what we are up against. But it's going to be one of those days where we try to bat all through an hour at a time and start reassessing every time we go through a tough period."
Sangakkara missed out on the first Test through a hamstring injury and showed how much the team missed him when he followed his first-innings knock of 57 with an unbeaten 109 today.
" I was a bit more fluent in this innings than the first where I was scratching around a bit and had a lot of luck getting to 57. I was pretty cut up that I threw it away. It was a good enough start to go and get more runs. Mahela showed everyone how to apply themselves and bat on the track. This innings was getting to little landmarks like 20s and 30s forgetting about everything and battling through sessions and through tough bowling."
He admitted that the team was disappointed they could not help Muttiah Muralitharan get the nine wickets he required to break Warne's record of 708 Test wickets. Muralitharan picked up just four wickets in the series conceding 400 runs.
"We always have an enormous amount of love and respect for Murali. He is champion enough to understand that his efforts are to help the team win. We are very disappointed for him. He's disappointed with himself but it's not the end of the world for him.
"He's got many more years to go and he's got three Tests coming up against England. The record for him is given. Unfortunately we couldn't do it in Australia which would have probably been the ideal way for him to achieve it. Our focus was on trying to win a Test match and if we were going to focus entirely on the fact that this is Murali's record that would have probably taken something away from the team focus."