Smith, Marsh tons give Oz slender lead

Steven Smith (Gallo)
Steven Smith (Gallo)

Colombo - Centuries from skipper Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh gave Australia hope of a consolation victory in the final Test against Sri Lanka Monday before being pegged back by their bogeyman Rangana Herath.

Smith and Marsh put on a record 246 runs for the second wicket, raising Australian hopes of building a match-winning lead in response to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 355 before the veteran Herath put the brakes on with a six wicket haul.

Australia were eventually all out for 379, a lead which was reduced to just two runs by the close of play as Sri Lanka reached 22 at stumps, albeit with the loss of opener Dilruwan Perera who was lbw to Mitchell Starc for eight.

Dimuth Karunaratne was unbeaten on eight, alongside Kaushal Silva who has so far made six at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in the final match of the series. Australia are trailing 0-2.

Herath -- who took a hat-trick in the last Test and 10 wickets in the first match of the series -- again brought the hosts back into contention by taking six for 81.

The 38-year-old veteran ran through the Australian tail with help from fellow spinner Dilruwan Perera's two wickets.

Medium-pacer Suranga Lakmal struck with the second new ball in the second session to get the wicket of Marsh and break the dangerous partnership.

Marsh, who had hit his 19th boundary off the previous delivery, was bowled on 130 after he chopped Lakmal's good length delivery onto his stumps.

Smith, who hit 10 fours and a six during his 119-run knock, departed after being stumped off Herath, with the third umpire ruling in favour of the bowler in a close decision.

The marathon partnership between Smith and Marsh was the highest second-wicket stand between the two countries.

The pair ensured that Australia did not lose a wicket in the first session as the visitors took lunch on 235 for one.

Marsh, who was drafted into the Australia side because of his long experience of Asian conditions, survived a dropped catch on 67 early in the morning against Herath but soon took control.

He brought up his hundred with an inside edge off Dilruwan Perera that went for a boundary and celebrated the milestone by hugging his skipper at the other end.

Smith, who resumed the day on 61, reached his 15th Test century to improve on his previous best of 55 in the series.

Mitchell Marsh, who registered his second Test half-century, contributed a useful 53 to help Australia surpass Sri Lanka's first innings score.

Top-ranked Australia are bidding to avoid a series whitewash after losing the first two Tests.

Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
46% - 3452 votes
11% - 818 votes
18% - 1335 votes
2% - 145 votes
1% - 61 votes
2% - 158 votes
5% - 379 votes
7% - 547 votes
3% - 232 votes
Water sports
1% - 63 votes
American sports
1% - 58 votes
3% - 194 votes