Third test in Colombo ends in a draw
MICHAEL Clarke has begun to drag Australia back up the world Test rankings with an exceptional captain’s innings, scoring a century in a sometimes spiteful third Test to ensure a series win.
Australia has now moved from fifth to fourth on the Test table, replacing Sri Lanka, following the 1-0 victory.
Clarke’s majestic 112 ensured the triumph, a welcome turnaround from last summer’s Ashes debacle, by forcing a draw at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.
The match was mercifully called off with Sri Lanka 0-7 in its second innings; still 324 behind after Australia had been bowled out for 488.
Mike Hussey (93) continued his exceptional form and was unlucky not to score a third successive hundred, finishing the series way out in front with 463 runs at an average of 92.3.
Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan gave Hussey an unnecessary send-off after he was caught in the deep sweeping, a churlish response from an uninspiring, losing captain who managed to average just 28 for the series.
The next most successful after Hussey was Sri Lankan vice-captain Angelo Mathews, who made 274 runs at 91, but his tedious century in this Test cost Sri Lanka any chance of attempting to set up a match it needed to win to level the series.
Clarke scored his 15th century and first in 24 innings by lofting a ball to the wide long-on boundary and running down the pitch with his left fist in the air before pointing his bat and helmet to the dressing room then hugging batting partner Hussey.
A short time later, Clarke jammed the ball painfully into the top of his knee and became involved in a slanging match with former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara.
Umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill were forced to step in at one stage and called in Dilshan to calm his players.
When Clarke eventually holed out to mid-on after more than four and a half hours at the crease, the slanging began again, with Clarke turning his head to have his say as he walked off.
The umpires then sought out Sangakkara and spoke to him as Brad Haddin made his way to the crease.
Clarke faced 178 balls, hitting 14 fours and three sixes in his first hundred since making his highest score of 168 in Wellington during March last year.
It was the first Test hundred by an Australian captain since Ricky Ponting made his last, against Pakistan in Hobart 21 months ago.
Australia resumed at 3-209 yesterday, leading by just 52, and when Phil Hughes (126) was unable to continue his outstanding innings, adding just four to his overnight score, the match was delicately placed.
Hughes attempted to sweep and top-edged a catch to deep backward square.
Clarke was just 14 and Australia led by only 63 but he mixed watchful diligence with imposing counterattacks.
He swept troubling left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for four and then played a dancing straight drive for six.
Herath, was Sri Lanka’s only dangerous bowler yesterday, claiming 7-157 from 52 overs, with the last wicket giving him 100 in Test cricket.
Clarke brought up his second half-century of the tour by cover driving a four and then lofting the next ball beyond the long-off boundary. (www.perthnow.com)