Wayne Smith, in The Australian, 1 January 2013 where the title reads “Capitalising on Australia’s poor form in dead rubbers is the key”
THE series might already be lost but a heroes’ welcome awaits the Sri Lankan cricketers on their return home if they can defeat Australia in the third and final Test starting at the SCG on Thursday. Australia has an appalling record this century in dead rubber Tests, losing seven of them in series already won, and while they will be intent on making a clean sweep of the Sri Lankans to farewell Mike Hussey in style, they might find their opponents a little more motivated than they were in Melbourne when they capitulated inside 2 1/2 days.
This is Sri Lanka’s last chance, on this tour at least, to finally win a Test in Australia and according to middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera, the players realise they can wipe away the humiliation of the MCG debacle with one dramatic late effort at the SCG. “Honestly, it was hard to digest that defeat . . . 2 1/2 days and we batted altogether 70-75 overs,” said Samaraweera. Even those figures are overstated. The admittedly short-handed Sri Lankans survived for a total of only 68 overs but who could blame them for selectively erasing the full scale of their defeat? “But that’s the past. We have nothing to lose.”
Two-nil down but still this 16-man team and management, we can go into history if we win a Test match in Australia. That kind of attitude we are coming here (with).” The Sri Lankans had hoped to come to Sydney no worse than 0-1 down, believing the spin-friendly SCG wicket could make last year’s leading Test wicket-taker Rangana Herath a match-winner. Although it is too late in the day for the unlikely-looking giant-killer to turn the series around, he showed in his luckless spells in Melbourne he has the ability to get among the Australian batsmen.
Sri Lanka’s injury crisis lingers, unfortunately. Kumar Sangakkara, easily the pick of the visitors’ batsmen after he followed up his fighting 63 in Hobart with a first innings 58 in Melbourne before his second innings was cut short on 27 when a Mitchell Johnson stinger shattered his index finger, is out of the remainder of the tour.
So too is paceman Chanaka Welegedara, who captured six wickets in Hobart before breaking down at the MCG with a strained hamstring.
Wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene and allrounder Kuwan Kulasekara, two other victims of Australia’s deliberate campaign of short-pitched bowling, will face fitness tests today, but Samaraweera believes they are at best no more than 50-50 prospects of playing.
The lack of a specialist keeper hurt the Sri Lankans grievously in Melbourne, with former gloveman Sangakkara showing definite signs of ring-rust. Should Jayawardene not make it to the starting line, Dinesh Chandimal, an unlucky omission from the first two Tests, will take over, with Lahiru Thirimane coming into the side to strengthen the batting.
All the Australian focus might be on Hussey, whose retirement announcement also caught the Sri Lankans by surprise – “Three hundreds in his last five Tests,” said an astonished Samaraweera – but the visitors have some farewelling of their own to do.
This will be Mahela Jayawardene’s last Test as captain before standing down to become a Ricky Ponting-like foot soldier under expected new skipper Angelo Mathews.
This has been an unhappy final tour of Australia for Jayawardene, with scores of 12, 19, 3 and 0 to show for his four Test innings, but he has a proud international record as the first Sri Lankan batsman to score 10,000 Test runs and he will be bent on showing some of that form to Australian audiences. Likewise, his teammates are as anxious as the Australians to give their well-respected veteran a fitting farewell. “We will do 100 per cent for Mahela and they will do 100 per cent for Michael Hussey,” said Samaraweera.