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September 12, 2011
Sri Lanka 174 (Mathews 58, Harris 3-38) and 317 for 6 (Sangakkara 69, Paranavitana 55, M Jayawardene 51, Harris 3-54) drew with Australia 411 (Hussey 142, Marsh 141, Randiv 3-103)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia did many things right in the second Test but in the end they couldn't beat the Pallekele weather, or Sri Lanka, as the match faded away to a gloomy draw on the fifth afternoon. The teams will now head to Colombo for the final match with the series still undecided, a heartening outcome for Sri Lanka, who were outplayed for most of the first two Tests but fought hard on the final two days in Pallekele.
Only 35.3 overs were bowled on the final day, not nearly enough for Michael Clarke and his men, who needed a run of wickets to set up a small chase. Ryan Harris worked tirelessly to finish with three wickets - and a hamstring niggle - but when the weather and gloomy conditions set in during the early afternoon, Sri Lanka led by 80 runs with four wickets in hand, having done enough to save themselves.
Australia made four breakthroughs in between meal breaks and rain delays, starting the day encouragingly when Kumar Sangakkara was caught at slip for 69 in the fourth over. Harris extracted some movement from the new ball and squared Sangakkara up with a delivery that swung in just a touch and then seamed the other way, and the edge was taken by Clarke.
Later in the same over, Clarke put down an edge when Thilan Samaraweera had not scored, and chastised himself for a potentially costly mistake. However, he made sure to end the 41-run partnership that followed between Samaraweera and Mahela Jayawardene, when Jayawardene edged Trent Copeland to slip on 51.
Clarke hurled himself to his left to snare the ball just above the turf, the second time in the Test that Jayawardene had been out to a stunning catch in the cordon. It led to an uncomfortable moment when Jayawardene stood his ground despite Clarke telling him that he was "100% certain" he had taken the ball cleanly, which replays quickly confirmed was the case.
But Australia just couldn't force the collapse they needed; the next wicket came ten overs later when Prasanna Jayawardene (21) edged behind off a wonderful Harris ball that seamed away just enough. That was followed by the dismissal of Samaraweera, who had made a steady 43 when he suffered a lapse in judgment, edging behind when he tried to cut a Shane Watson inswinger that was too close to his body.
It was a loose shot at the wrong time, a disappointing end for Samaraweera, who has been one of the culprits in Sri Lanka's batting struggles during this series. Had he survived another five overs, he could have finished with an unbeaten half-century; instead, Angelo Mathews and Suraj Randiv saw the Australian threat off until the rain set in.
It was a frustrating outcome for Australia, who have outplayed Sri Lanka in both Tests but could still face a drawn series if Sri Lanka succeed at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in the third Test starting on Friday. However, the SSC has hosted three draws in its past five Tests, and as positive as Clarke and his Australians are, they would be content to make it four draws from six.
Whatever the SSC provides, both teams have some selection decisions to ponder over the next few days. Sri Lanka need to play both Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis if fit - both missed this game due to injury - while their batsmen were again outdone by their Australian opponents.
For Australia, the major issue is deciding which batsman will make way for Ricky Ponting, who will have rejoined the squad after missing the Pallekele Test for the birth of his daughter. Shaun Marsh's century on debut has all but secured his place and the selectors would be reluctant to tinker with the opening combination, which could mean Phillip Hughes plays and Usman Khawaja is the man to miss out.
There is also concern regarding whether Harris' hamstring trouble - he left the field for assessment during the last day before returning shortly before the final rain delay - is serious enough to put him in doubt. Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are in the squad as the backup fast men.
But the biggest question is whether the teams will get five days of uninterrupted Test cricket at the SSC in Colombo. No rain and no bad light would be a victory for fans of both sides, regardless of the result.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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