Sri Lanka Wrestle Back Control
Despite gaining a first inning lead of 24 runs Australia let the advantage slip on the 3rd day of the 3rd Test in Colombo on Monday. Twin centuries from Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh elevated Australia to 267/1 as they forged a formidable 246 run partnership. However familiar frailties soon came to the fore as Australia lost their last 9 wickets for just 112 runs with Only Mitchell Marsh managing to stop a rot with a polished half century. Sri Lanka's leading spinner Ragana Herath was the cause of much of the destruction claiming 6/81 as he ran through Australia's middle and lower order. Despite a late wicket to spearhead Mitchell Starc, Australia face the prospect of a 4th innings run chase on a pitch starting to wear and take sharper turn. After their opening pair had failed all series, a change of personal failed to improve things as Dilruwan Perera was trapped plumb in front as Sri Lanka closed on 1/22 just 2 runs behind Australia.
Marsh, Smith Show their Class
Shaun Marsh's punctuated test career might finally be about to take flight after his wonderful 130 in Colombo. Marsh has managed just 18 tests for Australia and has been re-called to the side a remarkable 7 times. At 33 years old, Marsh might finally have put down marker for a prolonged run in the side. Indeed Marsh bought up hundreds in consecutive tests here. 8 Months ago back in Hobart Marsh made a dominant 182 against the West Indies only to be dropped for the returning Usman Khawaja. Reading the spin with ease and plying with soft hands throughout Marsh looked a cut above most his Australia team mates in the spinning conditions. Unlike some of his compatriots Marsh used his feet to good effect and used it sensibly and sparingly rather then a weapon to attack and impose himself at all costs. Marsh bought up his hundred from 214 balls and played his part is Australia's 4th highest partnership for any wicket in Asia of 246 with captain Steve Smith. Smith scored a mature hundred after elevating himself to number 3 in the batting order. Smith managed the 15th century of a flourishing test career here on what has been a testing tour for the captain. Smith now has a century against every test nation bar Pakistan, who visit Australia this summer. Whilst Khawaja must surely return in Brisbane, Australia might have settled on their top 3 for India in February.
Pakistan Close in on Number 1 Ranking
What a remarkable achievement it would be if Misbah-Ul-Haq's men could claim the number 1 Test Ranking. In order to do so they need either a Sri Lankan win or draw in Colombo, plus a West Indian win or Draw in the 4th Test In Port of Spain against India. This Pakistan side has flown under the radar for much of the past 6 years. Unable to play cricket on home shores they have instead been forced to play all home games in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Pakistan claimed a 2-2 series draw against England with a dominant 10-wicket win at the oval. After a heavy defeat in Manchester and a final dat collapse at Edgbaston most Pakistan sides of the past would have folded in the final test. However one of the main attributes of the team under Misbah has been their resolve and fighting qualities. The ageless and imperious Younis Khan set up the win with another titanic double hundred. Wahab Riaz ripped through England middle order with a typical burst of full octant fast bowling as Pakistan concluded the crushing win won on their Independence Day back home. While their at times fragile batting is shore to be tested on Australian shores they have a pace bowling arsenal that will enjoy the hard and bouncy conditions. In Yasir Shah they have a classy leg spinner. Pakistan have been rewarded with the signature tests of the Australian summer in Boxing Day and New Years encounters in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. A 3 test series that a few years might have been considered a dull one now seems anything but as Pakistan and Australia will fight for the number 1 ranking.