Clarke shines as Aussies win Sri Lanka series

Courtesy: International Cricket Council

Australia clinched the Test series against Sri Lanka 1-0 on Tuesday after resurgent skipper Michael Clarke led from the front to snatch a draw for the tourists in the third and final game.

It was Clarke’s first Test tour as captain, the series win coming after the 125-run victory in the opening encounter in Galle. The second Test in Pallekele ended in a rain-affected draw.

Clarke burst into form with a fluent century and Michael Hussey narrowly missed a third consecutive hundred as Australia piled up 488 in their second innings before they were all out shortly before close with a lead of 331 runs.

Sri Lanka were 7-0 from two overs in their second knock when the match was called off at the Sinhalese Sports Club in the capital Colombo.

Clarke hit 112 and Hussey made 93 in a remarkable batting revival after Australia had conceded a first innings lead of 157 runs in good batting conditions. The victory saw Australia and Sri Lanka exchange positions in the official Test rankings, with Clarke’s men moving to fourth place and Sri Lanka dropping to fifth.

Clarke, who went 23 innings without a Test century since making 168 against New Zealand in March last year, hammered 14 boundaries and three sixes in his robust knock. He was dismissed after he lost concentration following a verbal on-field skirmish with Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and holed out in the deep to become left-arm spinner Rangana Herath’s fifth victim.

Herath finished with remarkable figures of 7-157 on an unhelpful pitch, his last wicket giving him 100 Test scalps in 29 matches. Hussey continued his amazing run in the series, scoring 463 runs in five innings at an average of 92.60, but missed out on a century in each innings.

The left-hander moved to 93 with two fours off Tillakaratne Dilshan, but fell in the same over as he swept high to a diving Chanaka Welegedara at deep square-leg. The West Australian had scored 95 and 15 in the first Test, 142 in the second and 118 in the first innings here.

Clarke and Hussey put on 176 for the fifth wicket after Sri Lanka had struck an important blow in the day’s sixth over. Australia added just 11 runs to their overnight score of 209-3 when century-maker Phil Hughes top-edged a sweep off Herath to Lahiru Thirimanne at square-leg. The left-hander made 126, his third Test century.

Herath, who claimed the first five wickets in the innings, shared the second new ball, which was taken in the 87th over with the total 268-4. Clarke responded to the gamble by driving the spinner through the covers and lofting the next ball for six to bring up his half-century.

And he reached his 15th Test century by pulling Herath to mid-on for his 14th boundary, soon after he had smashed the bowler for his third six.