COLOMBO: Australia clinched the Test series against Sri Lanka 1-0 Tuesday after resurgent skipper Michael Clarke led from the front to snatch a draw for the tourists in the finely poised third and final game.
For Clarke it was a victorious first Test tour as captain, the series win coming after the 125-run defeat of the hosts in the opening encounter in Galle.
The second Test in Pallekele ended in a rain-affected draw.
Clarke said he was delighted at his team’s performance after receiving the series trophy named after spin legends Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
“I am very proud with the way we played on this tour,” he said. “It was good to see the new players make the most of the opportunities that came their way.”
He added that his team, which swaps places with Sri Lanka to move up to fourth in the official Test rankings, was anticipating a “completely different challenge” next month in South Africa.
The skipper burst into form with a fluent century and Michael Hussey narrowly missed a third consecutive hundred as Australia piled up 488 in their second innings before they were all out shortly before close with a lead of 331.
Sri Lanka were 7-0 from two overs in their second knock when the match was called off at the Sinhalese Sports Club in the capital Colombo.
Clarke, who replaced Ricky Ponting as captain, hit 112 and Hussey made 93 in a remarkable batting revival after the tourists had conceded a first innings lead of 157 runs in good batting conditions.
Clarke, who went 23 innings without a Test century since making 168 against New Zealand in March last year, hammered 14 boundaries and three sixes in his robust knock.
He was dismissed after he lost concentration following a verbal on-field skirmish with Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and holed out in the deep to become left-arm spinner Rangana Herath’s fifth victim.
Herath finished with remarkable figures of 7-157 on an unhelpful pitch, his last wicket giving him 100 Test scalps in 29 matches.
Hussey continued his amazing run in the series, scoring 463 runs in five innings at an average of 92.60, but missed out on a century in each innings of this match.
The left-hander moved to 93 with two fours off Tillakaratne Dilshan, but fell in the same over as he swept high to a diving Chanaka Welegedara at deep square-leg.
The West Australian had scored 95 and 15 in the first Test, 142 in the second and 118 in the first innings here.
Hussey, who picked up the man-of-the-match awards in all three Tests, was also adjudged the man of the series.
He and Clarke put on 176 for the fifth wicket after Sri Lanka had struck an important blow in the day’s sixth over.
Australia added just 11 runs to their overnight score of 209-3 when century-maker Phil Hughes top-edged a sweep off Herath to Lahiru Thirimanne at square-leg.
The left-hander made 126, his third Test century.
Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, said he was impressed with the way his team bounced back after losing the first Test and then being saved by rain in the second.
“We came back strongly and that is a good sign for us,” he said. “I think we had a very good chance to win this game but I must admit Australia played better cricket to save it and take the series.”
Sri Lanka will now prepare for Test and one-day contests against Pakistan to be played in the United Arab Emirates from next month.