At Pallekele, September 8-12, 2011. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: S. Prasanna; S. E. Marsh.
This was a good match for the Marsh family. Left-hander Shaun, included for his Test debut as the replacement for Ponting, received his baggy green cap from his father Geoff, who played 50 Tests for Australia between 1985 and 1992. Shaun, 28, responded by becoming the 19th batsman to score a century on debut for Australia. Having coached Australia in the late 1990s, Geoff, who had flown over just to watch his son, found himself courted by Sri Lanka Cricket and was later unveiled as their new national coach.
Sri Lanka came to Pallekele hoping the return of Ajantha Mendis would shore up the attack, but were disappointed to learn on the eve of the game that he had a bad back. Worse followed when Rangana Herath pulled out with a sore finger. In their stead, the 26-year-old Army leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna was called up for his first Test to partner Suraj Randiv. Sanath Jayasuriya did the honours at Prasanna's cap-presentation ceremony.
This was only the second Test at the Pallekele ground, which was built for the World Cup and supplanted the Asgiriya Stadium as Kandy's international venue. West Indies played here late in 2010, but bad weather prevented the completion of even one innings of that match - and rain and bad light robbed this one of more than a day, again ruling out a result. Dilshan batted first, but his side made as many as 174 thanks only to Sangakkara, who battled more than three hours for 48, and Mathews, who made 58 from No. 7, including three sixes. Sangakkara's dismissal was cunningly contrived by Clarke, who thought Hussey's rarely seen wobblers might induce a catch forward of the wicket. Perhaps emboldened by a remarkable gully catch to remove Mahela Jayawardene, he was successful after only three balls, and removed from the attack after six. Two days later, he was raising his bat to celebrate his 14th Test century.
Most of the attention, however, was grabbed by Marsh, who proved he was assuredly not just a one-day dasher, batting for exactly seven hours and hitting 18 fours. The previous Australian to score a century on Test debut was Marcus North, another Western Australia left-hander, early in 2009. Marsh put on 258 with Hussey, allowing Clarke to declare at 411.
The Sri Lankans made a better fist of their second innings, but Hussey again intervened crucially, this time removing opener Paranavitana for a watchful 55. Sangakkara and Jayawardene then shared their 13th century partnership in a Test, as Sri Lanka clawed back some respectability by comfortably avoiding defeat.
Man of the Match: M. E. K. Hussey.