Stand-in Lahiru Thirimanne and skipper Mahela Jayawardene missed centuries as injury-hit Sri Lanka slumped to 294 all out after a strong start to the third Test in Sydney against Australia yesterday.
Thirimanne, who only arrived in Australia this week to cover for the injured Kumar Sangakkara, threw away a chance of a first Test hundred.
Jayawardene scored his first away Test 50 in more than three years, but was caught at slip on 72.
The tourists, demoralized after last week’s innings and 201-run defeat in Melbourne to lose the series, showed greater resolve in the dead-rubber final Test as they chased their first-ever Test win Down Under at the 13th attempt.
They were all out shortly before stumps on the opening day, with paceman Jackson Bird taking four for 41 off 19.4 overs.
Thirimanne reached his highest Test score after he was given out LBW to Bird for no score, before the dismissal was overturned on review.
Thirimanne also had a life on 65 when put down by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off spinner Nathan Lyon, but with a century in sight off 151 balls, he tossed away his wicket on 91.
His flashing miscue off Lyon was brilliantly caught by David Warner diving full length at cover point.
Jayawardene earlier steadied the tourists after the loss of both openers before lunch.
The last time Jayawardene had passed 50 in an away Test was way back in November 2009 in India, although he has continued to score heavily at home. He went 26 innings outside Sri Lanka without a half-century.
It was a more confident Jayawardene than seen in the Hobart and Melbourne Tests and he faced 110 balls in 154 minutes before he was snapped up by Michael Clarke at slip off Mitchell Starc in the 43rd over.
Bird snared the wicket of Dimuth Karunaratne in the eighth over, but Australia had to wait until 20 minutes before lunch for a second, with the dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Karunaratne was out to a poor shot, attempting to pull Bird but only getting a top edge that was safely caught by Mike Hussey, playing in his 79th and last Test match. Dilshan was caught behind off Bird for 34.
Thilan Samaraweera went LBW to Peter Siddle for 12. Angelo Mathews put on 55 runs for the fifth wicket with Thirimanne before he edged Starc to Hussey at second slip for 15.
Left-armer Starc yorked Dinesh Chandimal with the first ball of the second new ball for 24 late in the day.
The Sydney Test had a poignant opening, with both teams paying their respects to Tony Greig in a moving farewell to the former England captain. Players and fans observed a minute’s silence in honor of Greig, who died at the weekend aged 66 from a heart attack while battling lung cancer.
SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND
AP, CAPE TOWN
New Zealand slid to 33-2 at tea on the second day of the second Test against South Africa yesterday, still 269 runs behind and facing an innings defeat in a sobering series-opening game against the top-ranked team in the world.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was 17 not out from 60 balls in a desperate battle for his team, after A.B. de Villiers’ half-century led the South Africans to 347-8 declared just after lunch — an imposing lead of 302 with less than half the match gone.
Dale Steyn removed Martin Guptill for a duck in the first over of the Black Caps’ second innings and Kane Williamson was out before tea to leave the tourists facing another embarrassing batting effort after being blasted out for 45 on the first morning.
Earlier, South Africa captain Graeme Smith called in his players after A.B. de Villiers fell for 67 soon after the break and Robin Peterson was bowled for 5.
De Villiers had led South Africa to the brink of a 300-run lead before he fell to Chris Martin for his 30th Test half-century, while Peterson cracked one four over mid-wicket before also being bowled by Martin trying another big shot.
New Zealand’s bowlers had struck early on the second day, but their vastly-improved effort from the first day still could not stop the top-ranked South Africa from forging further ahead.
The Black Caps briefly returned the match to a more normal — if not yet even — contest in the first session after South Africa was 252-3 overnight, removing Alviro Petersen for 106 in the day’s second over, Faf du Plessis for 15 in the 10th and Dean Elgar (21) just before lunch to slow South Africa’s runaway start.
De Villiers still ensured South Africa built steadily on its one-sided dominance of the first day, leading the Proteas to 335-6 at the lunch break with the home team’s third half-century alongside Petersen’s century.
Morning rain yesterday gave the beleaguered Black Caps a boost on a Newlands pitch that already had some cracks for the bowlers to exploit and Trent Boult’s 3-78 was the best in a vastly improved effort from the tourists.
Their mini-fightback, when they took 3-83 in the session, was too late to save this Test, but the much-criticized Black Caps might be buoyed by the small signs, if their limp batting lineup could only stand up to the top-ranked Test side’s feared quick-bowling attack.
That appeared again unlikely after just one Steyn over.
Earlier, century-maker Petersen was prevented from doing any more damage to the tourists’ flagging morale when he was beaten by an in-cutter and edged left-armer Boult’s first delivery of the day onto his stumps.
Du Plessis pushed at a Chris Martin ball that swung away from him and was caught in the gully as South Africa slipped to 281-5. Dean Elgar finally fell caught behind to Boult, having survived what looked like a good LBW appeal from the same bowler shortly before.