Sri Lankans make sound start to Third Test

Jackson Bird.
Jackson Bird.
Jackson Bird claims the wicket of the hard-hitting Dilshan.

Jackson Bird claims the wicket of the hard-hitting Dilshan.

Scoreboard at lunch on the opening day of the third Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Sri Lanka 1st Innings                                  Mins  Balls   4s   6s
D KARUNARATNE c Hussey b Bird                      5     33     23    0    0
T DILSHAN c Wade b Bird                           34    100     61    5    0
M JAYAWARDENE not out                             30     85     56    5    0
L THIRIMANNE not out                               4     18     16    0    0
Sundries (6lb 1w)                                7

Two wickets for                                 80 

Fall: 26 (Karunaratne), 72 (Dilshan). 
Bowling: M Starc 8-0-28-0 (1w), J Bird 8-4-14-2, P Siddle 4-1-12-0, M Johnson 4-0-17-0, N Lyon 2-0-3-0.  Batting time: 119 mins.
Overs: 26. 
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Tony Hill (NZL). 
Match Referee: Chris Broad (ENG).  Third Umpire: Nigel Llong (ENG).

AUSTRALIA's unconventional decision to select four fast-bowlers at the SCG is yet to be fully rewarded, with Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene ensuring the visitors made a decent start to the series-ending Test.

Sri Lanka withstood the early loss of inexperienced opener Dimuth Karunaratne to reach lunch on day one at 2-80. It lost remaining opener Tillakaratne Dilshan 20 minutes before the break for 34.

The bowler who most likely would have missed had Australia selected three pacemen, Jackson Bird, has clearly been the home team's most threatening bowler. He removed both of Sri Lanka's openers and was temporarily on a hat-trick after trapping number-four batsman Lahiru Thirimanne leg-before for a golden duck, only for umpire Aleem Dar's decision to be overruled as the delivery pitched just outside the left-hander's leg-stump.

While Dilshan got a start, his five boundaries were mainly derived from brute force rather than good timing. Captain Jayawardene appeared in much better form.

Having promoted himself to number three in place of the injured Kumar Sangakkara, the captain clearly batted better than he had in the preceding two Tests, although he was dropped on four when Mike Hussey was unchacracteristically slow to react to an opportunity at second slip off the bowling of Peter Siddle.

Jayawardene will begin the second session on 30, with Thirimanne alongside him on 4.

Clarke began the day by winning the toss and electing to field, in the process being the first Test captain to do so at the SCG since 1991-92 when India chose to against Australia.

The home team was as expected, with Mitch Starc replacing the injured Shane Watson. Sri Lanka was forced to replace four players due to injury: Sangakkara (finger), wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene (thumb), and seamers Chanaka Welegedara (hamstring) and Shaminda Eranga (ankle). They were replaced respectively by Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal.

Dilshan tempered his reckless approach from Melbourne. Karunaratne initially did the same too, although that restraint deserted in him the eighth over when he attempted to pull Bird and got a top-edge that was claimed by Hussey in the slips cordon.

For the next hour Sri Lanka's two most senior batsmen, Jayawardene and Dilshan, frustrated Australia. Most seamers were limited to four-overs spells are Clarke sought to rotate Bird, Starc, Mitch Johnson and Peter Siddle.

Clarke's decision to recall Bird was rewarded in the second over of his second spell he he tempted Dilshan to fend at a short-of-a-length delivery and he edged behind. Had the Thirimanne wicket from the next ball stood, it would have given Australia bragging rights for the session, although realistically they would have been undeserved.

AUSTRALIA: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke (c), Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade (c), Mitch Johnson, Mitch Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird. 12th: Glenn Maxwell.
SRI LANKA: Dimuth Karunaratne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep. 12th: Suraj Randiv.

This story Sri Lankans make sound start to Third Test first appeared on WA Today.