By Shihar Aneez
PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka (Reuters): Lengthy rain interruptions put paid to Australia’s hopes of wrapping up a series-clinching victory over Sri Lanka on the final day of the second test on Monday.
The match ended as a draw after the umpires called off play following persistent rain which allowed just 35.3 overs to be bowled in the first two sessions. Sri Lanka had reached 317 for six in their second innings at tea, a lead of 80 runs.
The hosts lost two quick wickets after lunch as Ryan Harris removed wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene for 21 to pick up his third wicket and Shane Watson dismissed Thilan Samaraweera for 43.
Angelo Mathews (11 not out), the only recognised batsman left for Sri Lanka, and Suraj Randiv (four not out) were at the crease when the umpires took an early tea due to the rain.
“The rain was frustrating mainly because it was on and off rather than raining consistently,” Australia captain Michael Clarke told reporters.
“It’s probably more frustrating for our side because we thought if we get back there, we have a chance of winning the test. We may have lost over a day worth of cricket or over 100 odd overs... due to the rain. But I am really happy about the way we performed, coming out with the second new ball and bowled really good areas and managed to get a few wickets.”
Michael Hussey was adjudged man-of-the-match for his brilliant 142 and the wickets of Kumar Sangakkara in the first innings and Tharanga Paranavitana in the second.
“Our goal always was to win three test matches here, but unfortunately rain played a big part. We haven’t won the second test, but have the same attitude to win the third test,” Clarke said.
The home team produced an improved batting performance after being bowled out for 174 in the first innings. They were bundled out for 105 and 253 in the Galle test which they lost by 125 runs.
“This is a very good batting performance. We didn’t bat well in the three innings from the first test,” Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan told reporters.
“All the batsman have got confidence and we can carry this forward to the last test. I am really happy the way we fought back and came back strongly.”
In the morning session, Australia picked up the crucial wickets of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as they pressed for victory.
The hosts added 65 runs to their overnight total for the loss of Sangakkara (69) and Jayawardene (51) as they battled to save the test match after conceding a huge first-innings deficit.
The experienced duo added 101 runs for the third wicket before Sangakkara fell to the second new ball on his overnight score, his edge off Ryan Harris carrying straight to Clarke at second slip.
Clarke also took a brilliant one-handed diving catch off Trent Copeland to send back Jayawardene, who stood his ground until replays confirmed the ball had been taken.
“I just made him aware that I was 100 per cent sure that I caught the catch,” Clarke said. “I made him know probably it was up to him go to the umpires and third umpire. I don’t think Mahela did anything wrong.”
Australia missed an opportunity to dismiss Samaraweera on nought when Clarke dropped him off Harris, three deliveries after the dismissal of Sangakkara.
The third and final test starts in Colombo on Friday.