Siddle leads the way in an all-round disciplined display
Flexed his muscle … Peter Siddle tore through the Sri Lankan tail to end with figures of 5-54. Photo: Getty Images
IF AUSTRALIA emerge from Hobart with their first Test win of the summer it will be reward for doing the little things - rotating the strike with the bat, stifling scoring with the ball - better than Sri Lanka.
Peter Siddle's effort with the ball on day three, in claiming 5-54, was even more influential than Michael Hussey's unbeaten century had been a day earlier.
Despite Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan (147) and Angelo Mathews (75) combining for a partnership of 161, the second-best made against Australia at Blundstone Arena, the home team still emerged at the halfway point of the match with a 114-run lead.
In the 14 overs Australia had to face to end day three that lead was extended to 141. They will begin day four 0-27, with Ed Cowan on 16 and David Warner on eight.
The difference in priorities between the teams was reflected in the boundary and maiden tallies.
When Australia declared at 4-450 on day two their score included 39 boundaries in 131 overs. In response, Sri Lanka matched that tally in just 96 overs. The visitors' advantage in that area was, however, negated by the ability of Australia's bowlers, particularly Siddle, Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson, to dry up the scoring around those boundaries and hinder the batsmen from rotating the strike.
Only 14 of the 131 overs bowled by Sri Lanka on days one and two were maidens, such was the discipline of the likes of Hussey, Phillip Hughes and Matthew Wade to score in most overs, even if it was just a single or two. Australia matched that tally of maidens in 70 overs, about half the time it took the Sri Lankans to do the same.
Siddle was the greatest exponent of the pressure that ensured the aggressive Dilshan's 416-minute stay at the crease did not have a significant effect on his team's run rate. At one stage in the second session he bowled 38 consecutive dot balls.
Siddle was so effective that the inability of Mitchell Starc to settle was negated. Three of the lanky left-armer's five spells for the day lasted only two overs, such was the regularity at which he was dispatched to the boundary.
Starc, chosen ahead of Mitchell Johnson, gave himself something to savour late in the innings with a fine yorker to dismiss Dilshan. After taking four wickets within 30 overs on day two, Australia had to wait 56 overs on day three to claim a fifth. The bowlers' workload was, for the second time in three Tests, increased by the absence of a seamer because of injury.
Ben Hilfenhaus, playing his first home Test, was not able to complete four overs on day three before he left the field with a suspected left-side strain. Siddle assumed greater responsibility when James Pattinson was injured in Adelaide against South Africa and did the same after Hilfenhaus's early exit. It was the 28-year-old who produced that initial breakthrough, when a review upheld his leg-before appeal against Mathews. Dilshan and Mathews batted aggressively without too often straying into recklessness. Mathews's innings continued his great record against Australia - he averages 87.25 after six innings - while Dilshan's punishing 147 was the second-highest against Australia in Hobart, trumped only by Kumar Sangakkara's 192 on Sri Lanka's previous visit in 2007-08.
After lunch, Siddle claimed the remarkable figures of 4-13 off 12.3 overs with nine maidens, for eventual figures of 5-54 from 25.3.
It was a good day for Jordan Silk, Australia's nominal 12th man. The 20-year-old, who has played one one-dayer for Tasmania, made a superb boundary save and also claimed his first Test catch, at deep mid-wicket after Nuwan Kulasekera holed out.