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Match reports

Australia v Sri Lanka

Toss: Sri Lanka

15-Apr-1997
Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: K. J. Silva.
Ranatunga gambled by sending Australia in on a fine pitch. But that soon paled against the drama on the first afternoon, when umpire Hair called Muralitharan seven times in three overs for throwing. Unusually, he made his judgment from the bowler's end, and several minutes passed before the crowd realised that Muralitharan's elbow, rather than his foot, was at fault. Many were unimpressed. Ian Meckiff, who retired after being called in Brisbane in 1963, was so affected that he went home. Muralitharan switched ends and bowled until tea on the second day. Then Hair told the Sri Lankans he was ready to call him from square leg.
As Muralitharan's career was set adrift, Boon was fighting for his. Since his 20th Test hundred, against England 12 months, he had averaged under 18 in 18 innings. Retained on an unwritten loyalty clause, he ground out 100 in 363 minutes, the slowest of eight centuries in this series by an hour and a half. Steve Waugh was two and a half hours quicker reaching three figures and Ponting again seemed destined for a maiden hundred until he fell to debutant left-arm spinner Jayantha Silva, for 71 from 94 balls. Taylor declared on 500 and had time to take his 100th Test catch before stumps.
Sri Lanka's malaise deepened next day. The dressing-room's attention was divided between Muralitharan's plight and a procession of batsmen, which began when Taylor's punt on the medium-pace of Ponting removed Gurusinha. It was typical of Taylor's refreshing approach, mixing two parts instinct with an ounce of nous: Ponting had troubled him at net practice. Ranatunga stood his ground for 141 minutes and Kaluwitharana cut, hooked and drove a bright fifty off 59 balls. That prompted his promotion to open in one-day games, a move with far-reaching consequences in the World Cup. But De Silva disappointed again and Tillekeratne was struck four times in one over as McGrath exploited his instinctive push forward. McGrath topped and tailed the innings, as well as drilling the middle, to finish with five for 40, and 50 wickets in the calendar year; Warne was to pass 50 for the third year running in the second innings.
Sri Lanka followed on 267 behind and their chances of making Australia bat again seemed distant. But Gurusinha, respected as a good bloke by his opponents, achieved a minor moral victory. He scored 143 - the other ten managed 144 between them - to force a fifth day and ensure that Australia would indeed bat again. It was a brave effort: a painful blow from McGrath meant he could see several balls through watering eyes as he approached his century.
The Victorian Cricket Association threw the gates open on the final morning. An estimated 15,000 watched McGrath and Warne capture the last four wickets for 23 before the Australian openers knocked off 41 in eight overs.
Man of the Match: G. D. McGrath. Attendance: 105,388.
Close of play: First day, Australia 234-3 (D. C. Boon 93*, S. R. Waugh 2*); Second day, Sri Lanka 29-1 (U. C. Hathurusinghe 16*, A. P. Gurusinha 10*); Third day, Sri Lanka 33-1 (U. C. Hathurusinghe 20*, A. P. Gurusinha 8*); Fourth day, Sri Lanka 284-6 (A. Ranatunga 6*, W. P. U. J. C. Vaas 5*).