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Desperate skipper grabs a win

IF YOU had paid attention in the over before the tea break on Tuesday, you might have questioned Australian captain Michael Clarke's keenness to beat Sri Lanka.

Only twice before in Australia's Test history has a wicketkeeper been asked to bowl, as Matthew Wade was by Clarke.

He performed surprisingly competently.

On the other side of the tea break, however, there was nothing flippant about Clarke's tactics, as almost every Australian fielder was deployed in a catching position.

With the concession of runs to Sri Lanka not really a factor, Australia's only focus was securing the six wickets it needed to avoid its worst start to a Test summer in 26 years.

Three weeks earlier in Adelaide, Australia squandered a golden opportunity to beat South Africa.


It began the last session on the final day at Bellerive Oval needing six wickets against Sri Lanka.

At tea, Sri Lanka was 4-186, still trailing Australia by 206 runs, with its best batsmen Kumar Sangakkara (63) and Mahela Jayawardene (19) already out. The pertinent issue was whether the tourists could survive the 36 overs to be bowled.

If Sri Lanka had survived, it would have been the first time Australia had failed to win any of its first four Tests of a home summer since 1986-87, when it recorded two losses and two draws against England.

Sri Lanka, desperate to salvage a draw, fought hard but lost 6-69 in the last session to be all out for 255.

The 137-run win meant that although Australia will advance to the Boxing Day Test without Ben Hilfenhaus due to injury, and possibly Clarke for the same reason, it will go with a 1-0 series lead and a chance to retain the Warne-Muralidaran Trophy.

Peter Siddle reinforced his status as Australia's pace leader with a four-wicket haul for match figures of 9-104, but was denied his maiden 10-wicket haul by a devastating late spell from Mitch Starc, who claimed 5-63.

Clarke conceded pitch conditions had been more favourable than at Adelaide, but stressed the presence of all-rounder Shane Watson, who missed Adelaide due to injury, was significant.

''Having the extra bowler today compared to Adelaide played a big part. Watto bowled 27 overs - I would have loved those overs in Adelaide,'' he said.

''Reverse-swing was crucial in this game and we've probably got three of the best reverse-swing bowlers in the world in Sidds, Starky and Watto, so that helps.''

The visitors began the last session with their last recognised batsmen, Thilan Samaraweera (38) and Angelo Mathews (11), at the crease.

In the fourth over, Australia received a significant boost when Mathews meekly wafted at a ball from Siddle well away from his off-stump and delivered a simple catch to Wade, who had reclaimed the wicketkeeping gloves.

While the wicket of Mathews seemingly heralded the start of the Sri Lankan tail, the confident start of wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene was a reminder that his partnership with Samaraweera had the potential to be crucial.

Within 10 overs, however, both batsmen were back in the dressing room.

In the 102nd over of the innings, Siddle angled a ball into the pads of Samaraweera that moved even further off the pitch to beat the right-hander's inside edge.

Samaraweera, as Sri Lanka's last specialist batsman, unsurprisingly challenged umpire Nigel Llong's leg-before decision, but lost, which also exhausted Sri Lanka's allocation.

It also left him one run short of a deserved half-century.

When Siddle, the man of the match, was finally given a break after bowling his 51st over for the match, left-armer Starc made his biggest contribution for the match.

He removed wicketkeeper Jayawardene (21) and tailenders Nuwan Kulasekera (9), Rangana Herath (8) and Shaminda Eranga (6) in a spell too menacing for the calibre of batsmen he was bowling to.

Clarke marvelled at the performance of Siddle and how the 28-year-old relished the ''opportunity to be our number one strike bowler''.

''He really looks forward to the pressure situation. He doesn't care if he opens the bowling or bowls first change. [For him] it's about helping the team have success,'' Clarke said.

''If everyone has the heart that he has we'll definitely get back to being the number one Test team in the world.''

Sri Lanka started the final day brightly after resuming at 2-65, with the pitch conditions again proving much better for batting before lunch than afterwards, as the effects of rolling the pitch dissipated.

After Siddle claimed both Sangakkara and Jayawardene in an eight-over period straddling lunch - Sangakkara fell to a superb ankle-high slips catch from the injured Clarke - it was left to Samaraweera and Mathews to lead Sri Lanka's defensive effort.

In the remaining 18 overs of the middle session, which included two rain delays, Clarke used all of his specialist bowlers and also employed the second new ball, all without reward.

In the last over before the break he took the drastic step of getting wicketkeeper Wade to bowl his previously unseen right-arm mediums, with Phillip Hughes temporarily taking the gloves.

But in the last session he did not have to rely on unorthodoxy as wickets finally began to flow and Clarke's team secured its first win of the summer.

Australia (1st Innings) 5-450 decl.

Sri Lanka (1st Innings) 336

Australia (2nd Innings) 278

Sri Lanka (2nd Innings - overnight 2-65)
T DILSHAN c Wade b Watson 11
K SANGAKKARA lbw b Siddle 63
M JAYAWARDENE c Clarke b Siddle 19
T SAMARAWEERA lbw b Siddle 49
A MATHEWS c Wade b Siddle 19
P JAYAWARDENE c Hussey b Starc 21
N KULASEKARA c Wade b Starc 9
R HERATH b Starc 8
S ERANGA c Wade b Starc 6
C WELEGEDARA not out 0
Sundries (10b, 8lb, 1w, 1nb) 20
Total 255
Fall of wickets: 26 (Dilshan), 47 (Karunaratne), 112 (M Jayawardene), 151 (Sangakkara), 201 (Mathews), 218 (Samaraweera), 235 (P Jayawardene), 247 (Kulasekara), 250 (Herath), 255 (Eranga)
Bowling: M Starc 28.2-7-63-5 (1w 1nb), P Siddle 26-11-50-4, S Watson 27-6-54-1, N Lyon 32-12-57-0, M Hussey 1-0-5-0, D Warner 4-0-8-0, M Wade 1-1-0-0
Result: Australia won by 137 runs
Series: Australia lead the three-Test series 1-0