Hosts Sri Lanka continued their impressive come-from- behind on day four of the Pallekele Test,as Australia's shortcomings under sub-continent conditions were exposed to an extent.Resuming the day at 282 for 6, Lanka lost their batting hero Kusal Mendis early, but Australiacould not clean up the tail soon enough. Rangana Herath made a feisty 35 to ensure Sri Lankafinished with an impressive 353. He was to later play a significant role with the ball as well,claiming the big wicket of David Warner cheaply. Australia lost Joe Burns and Usman Khawajaas well, and went to tea at 85 for 3, still needing 185 for what would be a hard fought win.
268 was always going to be a tricky target, and Australia found that out very early in theinnings. Warner is known for his positive play, but going down the pitch to the dangerousHerath early on in the innings, isn't a smart thing to do, as Warner found out, getting himselfbowled. Usman Khawaja decided to continue attacking, but his approach too did not bear muchfruit as he was trapped lbw by Dilruwan Perera for 18, going for a sweep shot. As so many Australian batsmen have done in the match, Joe Burns got to the 20s before falling. He playedback to impressive debutant spinner Lakshan Sandakan, and was bowled for 29.
Australia would have been in further trouble had Adam Voges not reviewed his lbw decision. Hewas given out for a golden duck, and called for a second look more out of hope than anythingelse. But, it turned out to be a smart decision as replays showed the ball had turned enough tomiss the stumps. Thanks to the reprieve, 64 for 4, was reversed to 64 for 3. From that point,Voges and Steven Smith adopted extra caution literally going into their shells. Sri Lanka attacked knowing that they were very much in the ascendancy now. The pair were unseperated at tea although a lot of runs hadn't been added. A lot will depend on Smith and Voges on thefinal day.
When the day began, Sri Lanka were banking heavily on Mendis, unbeaten on 169, to take them past the 250 lead. But, that wasn't to be the case. A new day brought better luck for Australia, as their tormentor fell for an addition of just seven runs. In a shortish session, lost mostly due to rain, Mitchell Starc struck the most significant blow, getting Mendis to edge one behind the wickets, bringing an end to a sensational innings. Australia had Herath lbw rather early on, but a review saved him. Herath went on to capitalise on his fortune.
The left-arm spinner added 24 for the eighth wicket with Perera and 30 for the last wicket with Nuwan Pradeep. In the context of the match, these runs were worth their weight on gold.Perera fell for 12, trapped lbw by Josh Hazelwood. Australia were soon to add Sandakan as well, who was out in rather ungainly fashion, a ball hitting the midriff and landing on his stumps. The frustrations for Australia were back through as Herath and Pradeep refused to give up. It eventually needed a brilliant catch from 12th man Moises Henriques at cover to end things.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent