Hussey's chance as Lankans implode

Crash through ... Mitchell Johnson takes to the air over the wicketkeeper to reach the crease against Sri Lanka at the SCG on Saturday.
Crash through ... Mitchell Johnson takes to the air over the wicketkeeper to reach the crease against Sri Lanka at the SCG on Saturday.


SRI LANKA'S hare-brained batting has taken the heat off Michael Clarke and released the pressure on Australia's truncated batting line-up heading into the fourth day of an absorbing third Test.

Barring a catastrophic fourth-innings collapse, Australia should secure a 3-0 whitewash on Sunday after Sri Lanka blew a golden opportunity to press for a maiden Test victory on these shores.

Australia's truncated batting line-up passed its first examination, thanks largely to Matthew Wade's breathtaking century, but was set for an even more searching test in the second innings until Sri Lanka's brain fade after tea.

Sri Lanka, to resume at 7-225, were 87 ahead overnight but will have done well to set Australia a target of more than 150. Such a small run chase means Sri Lanka, led by tweaker Rangana Herath, will not have the chance to fully expose any susceptibility Australia have to high-class spin on a pitch offering encouragement for the slow bowlers.

With a tour of the subcontinent looming, the likes of Ed Cowan, David Warner and Phillip Hughes would have derived great belief if they had run down a decent fourth-innings target against a bowler of Herath's class.

What should have been an absorbing finish to the Test summer will instead be a fizzer after the Sri Lankans lost six wickets in a dramatic final session to hand Australia complete control of the match.

The admiration Sri Lanka had won in Sydney after their horror show in Melbourne evaporated in the space of 72 minutes through some of the most reckless batting seen during this series.

Mahela Jayawardene watched in disbelief from the non-striker's end as three of his middle-order batsmen, including his successor in the captaincy, Angelo Mathews, threw away their wickets just as Sri Lanka were gaining the ascendancy.

Most culpable was Thilan Samaraweera. Playing in his 81st Test, the 36-year-old showed none of the nous which has delivered him 14 Test centuries and an average of just under 50.

He had been at the wicket for just three minutes when, facing his third delivery, he decided to deposit Nathan Lyon into the Victor Trumper Stand. Embarrassingly, he failed to even make half that distance, skying the ball to Hussey at mid-on.

Samaraweera's dismissal was part of a collapse which resulted in the Sri Lankans losing 6-70 after seemingly cruising at 1-132 shortly after tea.

At that point Australia would have been forgiven for ruing their declaration instead of trying to swell their lead as much as possible, which seemed sensible given the hot form Wade had found.

''It could have gone pear-shaped quick, and it did really,'' said Wade, who made an unbeaten 102. ''When we sat down at tea and had a think about it they came out and took six wickets … and we fielded well enough to pull it back. At 1-100 we were kicking the dirt but now it's a very good declaration, absolutely.''

The hosts now have the luxury to promote Hussey from No.5 to give him the chance of hitting the winning runs in his Test swansong.

''He won't want to go up the order but we'll push him out there, don't worry about that,'' Wade said.

Wade will head to India with supreme confidence in his batting after hitting the second Test century of his short but promising career.

Batting at No.6 for the first time in the baggy green, the gloveman's defence was sufficiently sound to see off the second ball and his strokeplay dazzling, particularly when batting with Jackson Bird. Wade was on 70 when joined by the No.11 but hit his last 32 runs off only 18 balls.

Despite Sri Lanka placing five men on the rope on the off side, the 25-year-old was still able to pick the gaps to find the boundary.

''I didn't think I would get 30 as quick as I did but luckily I've batted with the tail for Victoria for four or five years and that experience kept me in good stead,'' Wade said.

''I feel like I've been flirting with my form a little bit with the bat so it's nice to get a score that I'm happy with.''

This story Hussey's chance as Lankans implode first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.