Zeenews Sports Bureau
Melbourne: Mitchell Johnson remained unbeaten on 73 as Australia finished Day 2 at 440/8 in their first innings in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 156 all out. Australia were ahead by 284 runs with 2 wickets remaining.
The highlights of the Day 2 were Australian skipper Michael Clarke’s century (106) and two fine half-centuries by Shane Watson (83) and Mitchell Johnson (73*).
Sri Lankan bowlers toiled hard throughout the day but could not prevent Australia from taking a healthy first innings lead. Pacemen Dhammika Prasad and Shaminda Eranga picked up two wickets each out of the five that fell today. Dilshan claimed the remaining one wicket.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath was the best bowler of the day for Sri Lanka though he did not get a single wicket. Catches were dropped and stumping was missed off his bowling. He, however, kept his spirit up and took a brilliant one-handed catch at long-on to dismiss Hussey.
Mitchell Johnson, coming to bat at No. 8, completed a fine half-century off 93 balls with 4 fours. Australia were in a little trouble when Johnson came in the middle.
He, along with Mike Hussey, stabilised the innings. Johnson, who was out of the Australian team during the most part of the year, was having a great time at Melbourne. Besides scoring this fifty today, he had taken four wickets yesterday.
Part-time off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan broke the 61-run 6th wicket stand between Hussey and Johnson when he removed the former for 34. Hussey tried to hit one over long-on but Herath latched on to a fine catch at the boundary to end Hussey’s 68-ball knock which was laced with 4 hits to the fence. Australia were 376/7.
Hussey (24*) and Johnson (21*) helped Australia take the lead past 200. After a middle-order hiccup when the hosts lost 3 wickets in 4 runs, both the batsmen steadied the team’s inning with watchful batting during the post tea session
At tea, Australia were 331/6. They led by 176 runs with 4 wickets remaining. Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson were unbeaten on 7 and 11, respectively.
It was a very productive session for Sri Lanka as they picked up all 3 wickets to fall today so far. Skipper Michael Clarke completed his century but soon departed on 106. Vice-captain Shane Watson then joined his captain in the pavilion when he got out just 17 short of a well-deserved hundred. Matthew Wade also did not last long as he was out for just 1.
Another Australian batsman fell to a short ball. Matthew Wade hooked a short ball from Dhammika Prasad straight down to the throat of deep-square leg whis was easily caught by Eranga. Wade made 1 off 6 balls. From 311/3, Australia suddenly found themselves at 315/6. They lost three wickets within a span of 15 minutes.
Soon after Clarke, Shane Watson also threw his wicket away and out for a well-made 83 off 198 balls. Watson, who looked all set to complete his ton, pulled one short ball off Dhammika Prasad which was safely taken by Samaraweera at deep square-leg. Watson hit 8 fours and a six during his stay. Wicket-keeper Matthew Wade came in to bat as Australia were 313/5.
Michael Clarke, who completed his first Boxing Day Test century, was dismissed for 106 by Shaminda Eranga. Clarke slashed hard at a way outside the off-stump ball which was sharply taken at third slip by Mahela Jayawardene. Mike Hussey joined Watson in the middle. Australia 311/4.
Michael Clarke continued to plundered runs as he reached yet another century off 181 balls when he hits a boundary off Dhammika Prasad. Clarke slammed 14 fours to reach his 22nd Test century.
Australia, meanwhile, crossed 300-run mark (310/3) as Shane Watson (80*) is also nearing his hundred.
They lead by 154 runs with 7 wickets remaining in the 1st innings.
Captain Michael Clarke (56*) and Shane Watson (60*) completed half-centuries as Australia went to lunch at 238/3.
With this fifty Michael Clarke overtook his predecessor Ricky Pontin’s record for the most runs in a calendar year by an Australian captain. Vice-captain Watson also played superb cricket to reach his half-century.
Resuming the Day 2 at 150/3, both the batsmen played cautiously in the morning session, adding 88 runs without losing any wicket. Though Sri Lanka lost left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegedara to a hamstring injury, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath continued to trouble both the batsmen.
Sri Lankan bowlers also created some chances but the fielders could not manage to hold on to the catches offered by the batsmen.