A few firsts

The victorious Australian team with Warne-Muralitharan trophy.-AP

Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and Australia’s Adam Gilchrist achieved personal milestones even as the host continued its massive winning streak at the Bellerive Oval. Peter English reports.

Kumar Sangakkara lit up the second Test with a thrilling innings of counter-punching, but not even a Sri Lankan-record score against Australia could prevent his team from bowing out of the series with two losses. The great shame of the contest was Sangakkara’s hamstring tear, which he suffered in a tour game, and it ruled him out of the opening Test in Brisbane.

As soon as he was fit Sangakkara was re-installed at No. 3, and after a shaky half-century in the first innings he proved to Australian audiences that he was a batsman of the highest class. During his 192, which was a magnificent display of determination and destructiveness, he treated Australia’s bowlers like minnows.

Without Sangakkara’s contributions the Test would have been handed over with a massive margin, but he was chiefly responsible for chopping the difference to 96 runs. If he was healthy throughout the series could have been so different.

Powerful through cover, graceful off the back foot and innovative when protecting the tail-enders, he conquered Australia in a way few batsmen have managed. Sangakkara started the rally when Michael Vandort departed quickly after Ricky Ponting, who changed the pattern of the game from Brisbane by not following-on, set Sri Lanka a target of 507.

With Marvan Atapattu, who signed off with a committed 80 before announcing his retirement, Sangakkara moved the tourists into a position where they dared to dream of a world record pursuit.

Kumar Sangakkara and Phil Jacques (below)... scintillating knocks.-AP

Brett Lee’s crucial double strike of Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene tempered the attitude, but Sangakkara reached 109 by stumps on the fourth day and they had seven wickets left to cobble together 260.

“It would have been nice if we could have finished with one or two wickets less,” Sangakkara said. “We were in a position to do that when Marvan was batting pretty well, but we are still in it with a fight.”

A collapse of five for 25 on the last morning eliminated the possibility of stealing a win. However, while Australia never doubted about victory, Sangakkara refused to back down. He attacked all the bowlers — Stuart MacGill was dealt with harshly and Lee was worked cleverly — and was aiming a pull off Stuart Clark when he was mistakenly given out by Rudi Koertzen.

Sangakkara’s bat passed over the ball, which then hit his shoulder and helmet on the way to Ponting at second slip. The decision of Koertzen, who apologised to the batsman after play, was a costly one, reducing the chances of Sri Lanka winning from a miracle to nil. It also stopped Sangakkara from reaching his seventh double-century. He had stayed for 282 balls and hit 27 fours and a six in passing Aravinda de Silva’s previous high of 167 against Australia.

Lasith Malinga belted three sixes in his 42 and Muttiah Muralitharan completed a disappointing tour when he was bowled by Lee to end the series. Muralitharan began with the aim of replacing Shane Warne as the game’s most prolific bowler, but left with only four wickets at an average of 100 and needs five more to surpass the mark of 708 against England from December 1.

AP

The extra bounce in Australia was meant to help Muralitharan, who had to bowl most of his overs on first and second-day pitches, but it did not make a difference as the Australians mixed cautious defence with bursts of attack. Only Ponting, who twice fell to the doosra in the series, was troubled and the lack of bite passed through Sri Lanka’s attack.

“We had a bit more to offer than this as a team,” Jayawardene said. “We had a lot of talented guys in the group and unfortunately we couldn’t get all that talent together in a couple of games. That was the most disappointing factor.”

Malinga came in for Chaminda Vaas, delaying his push to 100 Tests, and was unable to penetrate on the flattest of surfaces. The visitors’ plight worsened when Farveez Maharoof was lost mid-Test with a foot stress fracture. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Dilhara Fernando was at his best, but he struggled again and Australia waltzed to 542 for five before Ponting’s declaration.

The opening couple of days felt like a carbon copy of the ’Gabba as Phil Jaques’ second century in a row was matched by Michael Hussey, who sprinted to his hundred four balls before stumps on day one. Jaques holed out on 150 and Hussey went for 132 before half-centuries came from Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist, who slog-swept Muralitharan to become the first to 100 Test sixes.

Jayawardene was the backbone of the reply with a hard-working 104, but it was a mixed match for the captain, who froze when Lee’s reverse-swinging yorker arced so fiercely that the batsman did not play a shot to his first delivery of the second innings. Lee picked up four wickets again — his 16 earned him the Man of the Series — to guide the attack, which was without Symonds, who sprained his ankle while batting. To add to Ponting’s concerns MacGill had numbness in his hand on day three and was also struggling with a knee problem. The factors contributed to Ponting bating again.

Brett Lee dismisses Michael Vandort, clean bowled. The Australian paceman was named the Man of the Series.-AP

Australia had a 296-run lead and extended it as it reached 210 for two before Ponting’s third closure of the series. Symonds did not field and his replacement, Rhett Lockyear, a Tasmania 2nd XI player, made sure the allrounder was not missed, contributing to two run-outs and the catch of Vandort. It was that sort of series for Australia. The new players Jaques and Mitchell Johnson were outstanding and no beats were missed as they secured a 14th win in a row, two short of the record.

“It was important that we came here and played well again,” Ponting said. “We’ve done that so I’m more satisfied. The guys that played their first games up in Brisbane probably had even better games down here.”

While the reshuffled home team rampaged, the visitors limped like Sangakkara in the days after his injury. It was a cruel tear, turning a series that threatened to be close into a one-sided affair.

The Scores

Second Test, Bellerive Oval, Hobart, November 16-20. Australia won by 96 runs.

Australia — 1st innings: P. Jaques c Fernando b Jayasuriya 150; M. Hayden c P. Jayawardene b Fernando 17; R. Ponting c M. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 31; M. Hussey lbw b Fernando 132; M. Clarke c P. Jayawardene b Malinga 71; A. Symonds (not out) 50; A. Gilchrist (not out) 67; Extras (b-5, lb-1, w-1, nb-17) 24. Total (for five wkts., decl.) 542.

Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-133, 3-285, 4-410, 5-447.

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 35-6-156-1; Maharoof 23-4-82-0; Fernando 26-4-134-2; Muralitharan 46-4-140-1; Jayasuriya 9-1-24-1.

Sri Lanka — 1st innings: M. Atapattu c Clarke b Lee 25; M. Vandort b Lee 14; K. Sangakkara c Hussey b Johnson 57; M. Jayawardene c Clarke b Lee 104; S. Jayasuriya b MacGill 3; C. Silva c Gilchrist b MacGill 4; P. Jayawardene c Gilchrist b Clark 0; F. Maharoof (run out) 19; D. Fernando c Gilchrist b Lee 2; L. Malinga b Clark 1; M. Muralitharan (not out) 1; Extras (lb-7, nb-9) 16. Total: 246.

Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-54, 3-127, 4-134, 5-152, 6-163, 7-196, 8-207, 9-243.

Australia bowling: Lee 23.2-4-82-4; Johnson 17-3-44-1; Clark 16-6-32-2; MacGill 25-5-81-2.

Australia — 2nd innings: P. Jaques c Vandort b Malinga 68; M. Hayden lbw b Muralitharan 33; R. Ponting (not out) 53; M. Hussey (not out) 34; Extras (b-2, lb-1, nb-19) 22. Total (for two wkts., decl.) 210.

Fall of wickets: 1-83, 2-154.

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 12-0-61-1; Fernando 12-1-50-0; Muralitharan 20-1-90-1; Jayasuriya 2-0-6-0.

Sri Lanka — 2nd innings: M. Atapattu c Jaques b Lee 80; M. Vandort c (sub) b Johnson 4; K. Sangakkara c Ponting b Clark 192; M. Jayawardene b Lee 0; S. Jayasuriya c Gilchrist b Lee 45; C. Silva c Ponting b Johnson 0; P. Jayawardene lbw b Johnson 0; F. Maharoof c Lee b MacGill 4; D. Fernando (run out) 2; L. Malinga (not out) 42; M. Muralitharan b Lee 15; Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-6, nb-13) 26. Total: 410.

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-158, 3-158, 4-265, 5-272, 6-272, 7-284, 8-290, 9-364.

Australia bowling: Lee 26.3-3-87-4; Johnson 28-4-101-3; Clark 24-5-103-1; MacGill 20-1-102-1; Clarke 6-1-10-0.