Aussies take commanding lead

Hobart, November 18:

Ricky Ponting took the conservative approach on Sunday, deciding Australia should bat again rather than enforce the follow-on against Sri Lanka for the second time in the series.

The Australians won the opening Test by an innings and 40 runs in Brisbane. Ponting won the toss again here in Hobart and Australia reached 542-5 before he declared the innings closed.

Sri Lanka were bundled out for 246 in reply, 97 runs short of the follow-on target and 296 runs in arrears. But Mahela Jayawardene’s first Test hundred against Australia and Kumar Sangakkara’s 57 likely influenced Ponting’s decision to bat again.

At stumps on the third day, Australia was 111-1 in their second innings with an overall lead of 407. Matt Hayden was the only wicket to fall, trapped lbw for 33 by Muralitharan. That was Muralitharan’s 704th Test wicket, four behind retired Australian legspinner Shane Warne’s world record of 708.

Phil Jacques, who scored back-to-back centuries in his first two innnings of the series, reached his half century in the over before stumps and was unbeaten 53. Ponting was not out on seven. Australian paceman Brett Lee took 4-82 and did most of the damage early today, while Stuart MacGill and Stuart Clark picked up two wickets apiece. Lee had Jayawardene caught in the deep by Michael Clarke for 104 to finish off Sri Lanka’s first innings.

Lee took two wickets in a seven-over opening spell, knocking Michael Vandort’s middle stump out of the ground for 14 and having Marvan Atapattu (25) caught wide in the slips by Clarke.

Kumar Sangakkara, who missed the first Test because of a hamstring strain, was out cutting Mitchell Johnson to Hussey in the gully minutes before the lunch interval.

Five wickets fell in the middle session. MacGill bowled Sanath Jayasuriya (3) and had Chamara Silva caught behind and Clark dismissed Prasanna Jayawardene (0). Farveez Maharoof scored 19 and helped the total to 196 until his runner was run out by substitute Rhett Lockyear.