|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
At Hobart, December 14-18, 2012. Australia won by 137 runs. Toss: Australia.
Australia secured a dramatic win at 6.05pm on the final evening with only 10.4 overs remaining, after Sri Lanka - with six wickets in hand at tea - had seemed likely to escape with a draw. Two down at the start of the last day, they lost only one batsman in each of the first two sessions but, with 19 overs remaining, and four wickets still required by Australia, they subsided to some hostile left-arm pace bowling from Starc.
Victory for Australia was temporarily tarnished when news broke of Sri Lanka's request for the umpires to examine the ball for alleged tampering by Siddle and Cowan on the third day. The Sri Lankans did not make an official complaint, but match referee Chris Broad sent TV footage of the incidents to the ICC's headquarters in Dubai. No doubt influenced by the fact that the umpires had found no incriminating evidence themselves, the ICC cleared both players of wrongdoing. Siddle could thus properly enjoy the credit that came his way after a career-best return of nine for 104, achieved largely thanks to a full length and reverse swing; only Shane Warne, with ten-fors at Kandy and Galle in March 2004, had secured better figures for Australia against Sri Lanka.
The basis for success had been laid on the first two days, when Australia's batsmen flourished against some insipid bowling on a sluggish, flat pitch, before their own attack made early inroads. Hughes marked his return after more than a year with his first Test fifty on home soil, at the 13th attempt, although he had to graft: at one point he went 80 balls without a boundary. Clarke continued his golden form, while Hussey completed his third hundred in four Tests when, on 96, he miscued a pull off Eranga to deep midwicket, where Mathews dropped the chance and the ball dribbled over the ropes for four. Hussey's unbroken stand of 146 in 39 overs with Wade set up a positive declaration shortly before tea on a rain-affected second day.
Sri Lanka lost four wickets before stumps, with Mahela Jayawardene and Samaraweera both falling to poor shots. From then on, it was always going to be a battle for them to get anything out of the match. Even so, Dilshan played the innings of the Test, an outstanding 147 full of classical off-side strokes, ended only by a Starc yorker; it was his 15th Test hundred. Mathews batted serenely to make 75 and help Dilshan add 161, a Sri Lankan fifth-wicket record against Australia. But it was not always fluent: Siddle was especially economical, before going on to complete his sixth Test five-for.
Australia were fortunate at the start of their second innings, when Cowan was struck in front by Kulasekara; Sri Lanka did not ask for a review of the not-out decision, but Hawk- Eye suggested it was plumb. By the time the opening partnership was finally broken, Cowan and Warner had put on 132, in effect ensuring Sri Lanka's target would be unattainable on a pitch of increasingly uneven bounce; their coach, Graham Ford, later called it a "minefield", though Jayawardene preferred to describe it as "challenging". Warner completed his second fifty of the match, slog-sweeping Herath for a huge six that carried 93 metres, and switch-hitting him for four. Clarke charged to 57 off 46 balls before retiring with a hamstring strain, whereupon Herath mopped up the tail to complete his seventh Test five-for of 2012, and inch ahead of England's Graeme Swann as the year's leading wicket-taker, with 60.
Sri Lanka never made any pretence of chasing down a target of 393 in 130 overs. Their chances of surviving for a draw were hit when both openers fell before stumps on the fourth evening, Dilshan to Watson's first delivery. But Hilfenhaus was unable to bowl, having broken down in the first innings with a side strain and, with Lyon unthreatening on a surface that offered some turn, Australia found it difficult to prise out a stubborn middle order. In desperation, Clarke gave an over to Wade, the first Australian wicketkeeper to bowl in a Test since Rod Marsh in December 1983; in his first over in all first-class cricket - a maiden - he managed to clock 82mph with his right-arm seamers.
Mahela Jayawardene resisted for 19 before being well caught low by Clarke, the solitary slip, from his 77th ball. Sangakkara, dropped early on, finally fell to his 226th delivery, when Siddle beat him with movement off a full length. And it was Siddle who claimed two more important wickets, ending Samaraweera's cussed 198-minute stay to expose the tail. Starc now produced a fine spell, surprising Prasanna Jayawardene with bounce from round the wicket to have him caught at second slip. Kulasekara edged a beauty that reversed, before Herath was bowled off his boot by a fast yorker. To palpable Australian relief, Eranga gloved a nasty lifter with time running out.
Man of the Match: P. M. Siddle.
Close of play: First day, Australia 299-4 (Clarke 70, Hussey 37); second day, Sri Lanka 87-4 (Dilshan 50); third day, Australia 27-0 (Cowan 16, Warner 8); fourth day, Sri Lanka 65-2 (Sangakkara 18, DPMD Jayawardene 5).