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Plays of the Day from the fifth day of the SSC Test between Sri Lanka and Australia
September 20, 2011
Twice, on 15 and 71, Michael Clarke ventured beyond his crease but could not make contact with Rangana Herath. Each time Prasanna Jayawardene had the chance to stump Australia's captain, and each time he failed to make a clean take. Both instances were unusual. The first had Clarke trying to pad away the ball having left his crease, but somehow managing to let the ball sneak between his pads. Jayawardene cannot have expected such a miscalculation and lost sight of the ball as it found a way through. After lunch, Clarke shuffled out to defend, only for the ball to grip out of the footmarks and turn violently. The extravagance of the turn was out of step with most of Herath's deliveries, and Jayawardene erred again.
Clarke's contribution was expected to be the central point of the day, and so it proved. Soon after surviving the second stumping chance he advanced from 99 to 103 with a lofted drive off Herath, the sort of shot that had been a feature of his innings. Unlike his good friend Phillip Hughes, who offered a fist to the press box on reaching his century, Clarke had eyes only for the Australian dressing room, offering an air-punch, a kiss on the helmet and a triumphantly raised bat.
Once Clarke had passed his hundred, the game was up. Sri Lanka could no longer force a win, and Australia had no need to. This did not stop Kumar Sangakkara from engaging in a lengthy exchange with Clarke. Standing at gully, Sangakkara seemed keen to chat, and the topics of conversation did not appear to amuse Clarke. The umpires intervened twice, and Clarke seemed particularly agitated. If Sangakkara's intention had been to distract, he succeeded. Next over Clarke drove Herath to a deepish mid-on to depart for 112, muttering to himself as he did so.
Michael Hussey's dismissal for 93 prevented him from registering a century in each innings, and drew a theatrical celebration from Tillakaratne Dilshan, the successful bowler. The wicket took place after Hussey had made this series the second-most productive of his career. In five innings Hussey collected 463 runs at 92.60, bettered only by the 575 he made over five matches in last summer's Ashes. Having topped Australia's run-making so comprehensively in the past two series, it is arguable he is playing better now than at any stage of his international career.
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