Australia 542-5dec & 111-1 Sri Lanka 246: Jayawardene stands alone in face of Australian onslaught

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The Independent Online

At the Gabba they did 'em quickly and here in Hobart they are going to cook 'em slowly. Not even an outstanding innings spanning 271 minutes from Mahela Jayawardene could change the course of this match. Among the tourists, only the captain and Kumar Sangakkara had the fortitude to resist the Australian onslaught.

So dominant were the hosts that even the 12th man secured a run-out. So inept were the visitors that the run out came chaotically and no one was surprised. The gulf between the teams was distressing. About the only difference was that the follow-on was disdained. After leading by 296, the Australians sent their pacemen for a swim in the nearby sea and resumed flogging a toothless attack. At stumps the hosts led by 407 with nine mostly irrelevant wickets intact.

Jaywardene was superb. Throughout he batted with a conviction missing in most colleagues. Far from putting their heads down, the wayward ones played loose shots and pursued foolish notions. At least Farveez Maharoof put up a fight, hobbling out to bat despite a stress fracture in an ankle, and scoring 19 before his runner undid him.

Spectators have been waiting for someone to stand up to the Australians and Jayawardene obliged. He started slowly, giving the attack its due. Beforehand the home pacemen had sought guidance from Ben Hilfenhaus about the best approach to take on the notoriously docile tracks served up in Tasmania. Evidently he advised them to pitch the ball up to the bat and to set appropriate fields.

Apart from the accuracy of the bowling, Jayawardene's caution was caused by the weight on his shoulders. His first task was to repair the damage done by Brett Lee, who produced another searing opening stint, removing Michael Vandort with an inswinging yorker and enticing a loose drive from Marvan Atapattu. Lee bowled with heart, stamina and intelligence, sparing with the bumper, disciplined with his line and relentless with his pace, he provided further evidence of his increasing adaptability.

But Jayawardene was the paceman's equal. Watching the ball closely and avoiding anything risky, he defied the Australians. Whilst Sangakkara kept him company, supporters could hope for a substantial response. Sketchy at first and spared behind the wicket on 12, the Kandy man was starting to play fluently when a back foot force was held at gulley. His departure was followed by a succession of erratic shots which left Jayawardene isolated. Sanath Jayasuriya swept unwisely, Chamara Silva cut loosely but Prasanna Jayawardena was beaten by a corker from the excellent Stuart Clark.

By now the Sri Lankan captain had moved past fifty. Batting had not been easy. Although Stuart Macgill took time to find his length, the speedsters had been immaculate. Realising time was running out, Jayawardene widened his range after tea, slipping inside leg-breaks and sending ornate drives skimming through the covers. Ricky Ponting scattered his field. In a blink Jayawardene had reached 99. Ponting crowded him but the batsmen pounced on a swinger, sending it flashing to the point boundary. Then he punched the air.

Eventually Jayawardene was held in the deep. It had been a mighty effort. But he needed more help from his friends.

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