Slowly but surely the wheel turns

A wicket at last ... Peter Siddle celebrates taking the wicket of Angelo Mathews.
A wicket at last ... Peter Siddle celebrates taking the wicket of Angelo Mathews.

AUSTRALIA 5-450 dec and 0-27 (Cowan 16, Warner 8) leading SRI LANKA 336 (Dilshan 147, Mathews 75, Siddle 5-54) by 141 runs at Bellerive Oval, Hobart. Stumps, day three.

IF AUSTRALIA emerges from Hobart with its first Test win of the summer, it will be a reward for doing the little things - rotating the strike with the bat, stymieing scoring with the ball - better than Sri Lanka.

Peter Siddle's effort with the ball on day three was, in claiming 5-54, even more influential than Mike Hussey's unbeaten century a day earlier. In addition to their headline wickets and runs, it was the way the Australians set their example with those little things that was equally deserving of praise.

Despite Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan (147) and Angelo Mathews (75) combining for a partnership of 161 - the second-best made against Australia at Bellerive Oval - the home team still emerged at the halfway point of the match with a 114-run lead.

In the 14 overs Australia had to face to end day three, that lead was extended to 141. It will begin day four on 0-27, with Ed Cowan on 16 and David Warner on eight.

The difference in priorities between the teams was reflected in the boundary and maiden tallies.

When Australia declared at 4-450 on day two, its score included 39 boundaries across 131 overs. In response, Sri Lanka matched that tally in just 96 overs. But the visitors' advantage in that area was negated by the ability of Australia's bowlers, particularly Siddle, Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson, to dry up the scoring around those boundaries and hinder the batsmen from rotating the strike.

Only 14 of the 131 overs bowled by Sri Lanka on days one and two were maidens, such was the discipline of the likes of Hussey, Phillip Hughes and Matthew Wade to score in most overs, even if it was just a single or two. Australia matched that tally of maidens in 70 overs - just over half the time it took the Sri Lankans to do the same.

Siddle was the greatest exponent of the pressure that ensured the aggressive Dilshan's 416-minute stay at the crease did not have a significant positive effect on his team's run-rate. At one stage in the second session, he bowled 38 consecutive dot balls, a feat particularly impressive because he was not bowling wide of the stumps and was instead eliciting false shots from Dilshan and Mathews.

Siddle was so effective that the inability of Mitchell Starc to settle was negated. Three of the lanky left-armer's five spells for the day lasted only two overs, such was the regularity at which he was dispatched to the boundary.

Starc, chosen ahead of Mitchell Johnson, gave himself something to savour late in the innings with a fine yorker to dismiss Dilshan for 147.

That wicket gave some belated encouragement to his strategy of pitching the ball up seeking late movement, whereas beforehand the strategy had mostly produced half-volleys that were smashed to the boundary 15 times in his 24 overs - an unwanted team high.

After taking four wickets within 30 overs on day two, Australia had to wait 56 overs on day three to claim its fifth wicket. Its bowlers' workload was, for the second time in three Tests, increased by the absence of a seamer due to injury.

Ben Hilfenhaus, playing his first home Test, was not even able to complete four overs on day three before he left the field with a suspected left-side strain.

Siddle assumed greater responsibility when James Pattinson was injured in Adelaide against South Africa and did the same in Hobart after Hilfenhaus' early exit. It was the 28-year-old who produced that initial breakthrough, when a review upheld his leg-before appeal against Mathews.

Mathews and Dilshan both batted aggressively without too often straying into recklessness.

Mathews' innings continued his great record against Australia - he averages 87.25 after six innings - while Dilshan's punishing 147 was the second-highest managed against Australia in Hobart, trumped only by behind Kumar Sangakkara's 192 on the previous visit in 2006-07.

Siddle's first two spells, on either side of stumps on day two, were solid but nothing more. His following four spells were superb, and not just for the four wickets they produced.

After lunch Siddle claimed the remarkable figures of 4-13 off 12.3 overs, with nine maidens. He finished with 5-54 from 25.3.

A much less consequential milestone than Siddle's was achieved by substitute fieldsman Jordan Silk. The 20-year-old, whose only domestic-level experience was a one-dayer for Tasmania earlier this month, claimed his first Test catch, at deep mid-wicket after Nuwan Kulasekera holed out off Lyon.

Australia (1st innings) 5-450 decl.

Sri Lanka (1st Innings - overnight 4-87)
D KARUNARATNE c Wade b Hilfenhaus 14
T DILSHAN b Starc 147
K SANGAKKARA c Hussey b Siddle 4
M JAYAWARDENE lbw b Watson 12
T SAMARAWEERA c Wade b Lyon 7
A MATHEWS lbw b Siddle 75
P JAYAWARDENE lbw b Siddle 40
N KULASEKARA c (sub) b Lyon 23
R HERATH lbw b Siddle 0
S ERANGA not out 5
C WELEGEDARA c Hussey b Siddle 0
Sundries (2b, 6lb, 1nb) 9
Total 336
Fall of wickets: 25 (Karunaratne), 42 (Sangakkara), 70 (M Jayawardene), 87 (Samaraweera), 248 (Mathews), 289 (Dilshan), 316 (P Jayawardene), 320 (Herath), 336 (Kulasekara), 336 (Welegedara)
Bowling: M Starc 24-3-104-1, B Hilfenhaus 12.2-3-30-1, N Lyon 25-8-76-2, P Siddle 25.3-11-54-5 (1nb), S Watson 20.4-5-55-1, M Clarke 2-0-9-0

Australia (2nd Innings)
E COWAN not out 16
D WARNER not out 8
Sundries (1lb, 2nb) 3
Total (no loss - close) 27
Bowling: N Kulasekara 6-3-10-0 (1nb), C Welegedara 5-1-10-0 (1nb), T Dilshan 2-0-2-0, S Eranga 1-0-4-0

This story Slowly but surely the wheel turns first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.