Cricket: Australia produce unlikely victory

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The Independent Online
Australia's bowlers carved out an unlikely victory yesterday, defeating Sri Lanka by 16 runs in a first Test match marked by sheer bad batting by the hosts.

Set a victory target of 182 runs in the second innings, the Sri Lankans collapsed after they appeared to be on the threshold of their first Test victory over Australia and their first Test win in six years.

Over-confidence, lack of application and later the pressure of an evaporating victory saw them crumble in the first of the three- Test series. Only Asanka Gurusinha resisted, finishing unbeaten on 31. But the Sri Lankans lost their last eight wickets for 37 runs in the space of 17.1 overs. The main wreckers were the off-spinner Greg Matthews, who took 4 for 76, and the leg-spinner Shane Warne, with 3 for 11.

Yet the Sri Lankans had out- bowled and out-batted the Australians in the first innings, scoring 547 in reply to 256. And in the second innings, Australia made 471 with an all-round contribution but, handicapped by the deficit of 291, the Australians could offer only 181 as a lead.

The openers Roshan Mahanama and Chandika Hathurusinghe began sensibly with 58 overs in hand to complete the task. The first wicket fell at 76 when Mahanama (39) played Matthews to silly mid-off, where David Boon snapped it up in the short time the ball was in the air.

Three runs later Hathurusinghe, responding to Gurusinha's shot to mid-off, took off for a single but was run out by a direct hit by Tom Moody. The replacement, Aravinda De Silva, set the stadium resounding with victory cries as he hit seven magnificent fours. But with the score at 128, he hit a bad shot, trying to lift Craig McDermott over mid-on. Instead, the ball went high to Border, who took a superb catch.

The captain Arjuna Ranatunga fell to Matthews with another irresponsible shot that resulted in a simple catch to Border at mid-off.

By then, the pressure took its toll and Maravan Atapattu and Romesh Kaluvitharne were bowled for one and four by Matthews. The Sri Lankan tail was easy meat for the Australian spinners.

The victory ended Australia's jinx in the subcontinent. They have not won a single match in Pakistan since 1959, in India since 1969 and had only won a solitary match in Sri Lanka, the 1983 Kandy Test.

The Australian effort was the result of good team work. Four batsmen hit half-centuries - Matthews with 64, Boon 68, Dean Jones 57 and Mark Waugh 56. Mark Taylor made 43, McDermott 40 and Warne 35.

The Sri Lankan bowling and fielding in the second innings were ineffective - the Australian total was helped by 58 extras, including 34 no balls.