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March 12, 2004
Australia 220 and 512 for 8 dec beat Sri Lanka 381 and 154 (Chandana 43, Warne 5-43) by 197 runs
Shane Warne's scriptwriter could not have penned his comeback better. Australia, their backs firmly to the wall after the first two days, powered their way back into the opening Test as Warne polished off Sri Lanka's tail in the first innings and Matthew Hayden, the Man of the Match, set Australia on course for a massive lead. Warne then took centerstage on the final, action-packed, day as he ripped through Sri Lanka's batting and rushed to the magical 500-wicket landmark as Australia recorded a famous win.
Sri Lanka squandered a 161-run first innings lead as Australia piled up a mountainous 512 for 8. Set an improbable 352-run target, they were thrown into a tailspin this morning as Warne whipped out the cream of their middle order with a magical 13-ball spell that saw Sri Lanka crumple from 41 for 1 to 56 for 4. Sri Lanka never recovered and were bowled out for 154 in just 45.2 overs.
It was a meek display from Sri Lanka's batsmen but a brilliant one from Warne. Moreover, for a man who had played just two first-class games in 12 months, it was a truly astonishing performance and a fairytale return. He needed just one day to clean away the rust and regain his rhythm. By the second innings he was as menacing as of old. Warne finished with 5 for 43 from 15 overs in the second innings to complete the match with figures of 10 for 212.
The morning had started dreadfully for Sri Lanka. Kumar Sangakkara, promoted to open the innings after the injury to Sanath Jayasuriya the previous day, begun with a crisp square-drive to the boundary. But he was soon trapped lbw with a full-length inswinger by Michael Kasprowicz, who had recovered from his sprained shoulder joint (14 for 1).
Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene settled in for a while, adding 27 in 76 balls. Jason Gillespie, bowling with a leg gully, tested Atapattu with a series of short deliveries but didn't break through. Ricky Ponting turned to his spinners in the 11th over of the morning.
Jayawardene greeted Warne with a classical cover-drive and Sri Lanka reached drinks at 40 for 1. But Warne started to weave his magic immediately after the break. Atapattu was forced back and, surprised by the extra bounce of a fizzing legbreak, edged to Hayden at first slip (41 for 2).
"The Warney Wicket Counter" on the grass banks was now working overdrive and the scoring attendants, looking suspiciously inebriated, had barely strapped on wicket number 498 when he struck again: this time Jayawardene edged a legbreak to Hayden at slip (50 for 4).
As if feeling left out, Stuart MacGill scribbled his name onto the score sheet with a well-directed googly. Jayasuriya (5), clearly deceived, prodded tentatively outside his offstump and edged to Hayden at slip, giving him his third catch of the innings (56 for 5).
Sri Lanka reached lunch on 86 for 5, their only hope the rumours of rain in the nearby town of Hikkaduwa. But the rain was never going to come in time. Ponting started after lunch with Gillespie and MacGill and Thilan Samaraweera (15) was left in a tangle as he was bowled through his legs (89 for 6).
Eventually, after a three-over spell from Gillespie, that only heightened the sense of anticipation in the ground, Ponting brought on Warne. Hashan Tillakaratne (25), Sri Lanka's most famous blocker, cracked his first ball straight down the ground and tried to heave the second to leg. But he top-edged and Andrew Symonds was left with the simplest of catches as Warne was mobbed by his teammates (119 for 7).
The excitement of Warne's 500th wicket out the way, Australia went about trying to wrap up the game. Upul Chandana was in a feisty mood, clubbing seven fours in his 34-ball 43, but his was a path to self-destruction. Eventually he miscued a lofted drive and Justin Langer, fast-stepping back from mid-off, safely pouched the catch (153 for 8).
Warne and MacGill, who, incidentally, also played his part with 4 for 74, then finished off the match as Kumar Dharmasena edged to Hayden, who took his seventh catch of the innings to equal the world record for a non-wicketkeeper, and Muttiah Muralitharan was stumped for a pair.
Both teams will now travel to Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka's cool hills. Australia travel by sea plane while Sri Lanka will wind their way up there by coach, a seven-hour journey that will allow them to reflect deeply on how they threw away a golden opportunity to defeat the world's best side. Australia, though, simply couldn't believe their Warne-inspired luck.
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