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August 27, 2011
Sri Lankan Board XI 258 (Chandimal 59, Copeland 5-47) and 174 for 2 (Thirimanne 100*) drew with Australians 393 (Hughes 76, Khwaja 101, Clarke 104)
Lahiru Thirimanne pressed for a berth in Sri Lanka's team for the first Test with an unbeaten 100 for the Board XI against the Australians on the final day of the tour match. His determined and at times handsome innings also served to cloud Australia's spin bowling plans for the first Test at Galle, as neither Michael Beer nor Nathan Lyon were able to pose too great a threat on a pitch that offered sizeable rough and some sharp turn.
The Australians had been bowled out for 393, the captain Michael Clarke retiring after a suave 104, before the Board XI sailed smoothly to 174 for 2 by the time the teams agreed to an early close at about 4pm local time.
Trent Copeland, with 1 for 14, and Ryan Harris again looked the tourists' most likely bowlers, though Lyon (1 for 51) was able to claim the wicket of Thilan Samaraweera. Beer was the more economical of the pair, leaving the selectors a choice between promise and parsimony. It now seems unlikely that both will play in the Test, which starts on Wednesday.
Clarke began the final morning intent on a century, which arrived at a considerable clip in the company of Harris after Peter Siddle played on and Copeland edged behind. Intent on remedying a drought of Test runs in the year leading up to his appointment as captain, Clarke showed precision, verve and some power off both front and back foot, against pace and spin.
Kosala Kulasekara drew perhaps Clarke's only false stroke, a top-edged hook that landed safely short of two men out for the shot, and followed it up with a few sharp words. Clarke responded spikily and the dialogue continued at the non-striker's end. From there Clarke showed as much belligerence as elegance, and retired soon after reaching three figures in only 123 balls - he met the milestone with a most perfunctory wave of the bat.
Harris made 26 before he was last out on the stroke of lunch, opening the afternoon for an audition by Lyon and Beer. Lyon was on first following the exit of Tharanga Paranavitana, edging Copeland behind, and immediately gained some turn. His flight raised the eyes of Samaraweera, who advanced once to clout Lyon for six, again to collect four via a thick inside edge and a third time for a skied drive and a catch to mid-on.
This episode provided decent evidence of Lyon's belief and attacking approach against a batsman intent on doing likewise, but he did not follow it up with further wickets. At the other end Beer was taken for 10 from his first over, but dropped onto a length subsequently and spun one delivery past Angelo Mathews as he sauntered forward, though the square-leg umpire ignored Brad Haddin's stumping appeal.
Neither Lyon nor Beer were able to tie down the local batsmen, and it may be helpful for the Australian selectors on tour to recall that the previous Test in Galle was a high-scoring draw, in which Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis had to bowl a combined 107 overs for their nine wickets in the visitors' first innings.
Siddle's place in the Test XI was open to question after the first innings, and his second effort did little to improve his position. He bowled a little better than on the first day, when a majority of his deliveries were pitched too short, but runs still accrued at too free a rate.
Thirimanne played instead of an injured Tillakaratne Dilshan during the Sri Lankans' Test series in England, and largely looked the part against the Australians. He was accompanied towards the end by Mathews, who played unobtrusively but well enough as the shadows lengthened.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala