Cricket: Sri Lanka poised for Test victory

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Australia 256 and 393-7

Sri Lanka 547-8

AUSTRALIA were still in danger of losing a Test to Sri Lanka for the first time despite batting all day in Colombo yesterday, avoiding an innings defeat, and reaching 393 for 7 at the close. Allan Border's touring team, 291 behind on the first innings, led by 102 with three wickets left at the end of the fourth day of the first Test. The match finishes today.

David Boon, Dean Jones, Mark Waugh and Greg Matthews passed the half-century mark but none stayed long enough to build the really big innings that was needed to lead the Australians to safety. Sri Lanka are seeking only their third victory in 38 Tests, having beaten India and Pakistan.

On a slow pitch giving some assistance to the spinners, the Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, switched his fast-medium and spin bowlers around to capture seven wickets on a day when Australia added 367 runs to their overnight 26 without loss.

Australia lost two wickets in each of the first two sessions but three in the third when the last to go - the wicketkeeper, Ian Healy, lbw to Chandika Hathurusinghe in the final hour - swung the tide in Sri Lanka's favour.

One of the prime concerns for Ranatunga was the large number of no-balls delivered by his bowlers which saw the extras total rise to 50 by the end of the day - 33 being no-balls. The fast bowler, Champaka Ramanayake, bowled 15 of them and his new ball partner, Pramodaya Wickremasinghe, 12.

Australia lost Tom Moody early in the day for 13 when he played over a Ramanayake delivery which clipped his off-bail.

Taylor and Boon then added 66 for the second wicket before Taylor, on 43, skied a ball from the left-arm spinner, Don Anurasiri, and Asanka Gurusinha held the catch at mid-wicket.

Boon and Jones shared in the largest partnership of the innings, adding 88 for the third wicket. They batted confidently until Anurasiri struck once more, having Boon mistiming a drive and caught by Ranatunga at short extra cover.

Sri Lanka then captured the prize wicket of Jones, on 57, when he went for a quick single called by Waugh and found himself stranded by a direct hit from Gurusinha fielding at square leg.

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 256 (I A Healy 66no).

SRI LANKA - First Innings 547-8 dec (A P Gurusinha 137, R Kaluwitharana 132no, A Ranatunga 127, R S Mahanana 78).

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

(Wednesday: 26-0)

T M Moody b Ramanayake13

M A Taylor c Gurusinha b Anurasiri43

D C Boon c Ranatunga b Anurasiri68

D M Jones run out57

M E Waugh c K'arana b Wickremasinghe56

* A R Border c Gurusinha b Anurasiri15

G R J Matthews not out51

I A Healy lbw b Hathurusinghe12

C J McDermott not out28

Extras (lb16 nb33 w1)50

Total (for 7)393

Fall: 1-41 2-107 3-195 4-233 5-269 6-319 7-361.

To bat: S K Warne, M R Whitney.

Bowling (to date): Ramanayake 24-5-91-1; Wickremasinghe 15-0-61-1; Hathurusinghe 17-4-55-1; Anurasiri 32-3-120-3; Madurusinghe 14-1-50-0.

Umpires: K T Francis and T M Samarasinghe.