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Sri Lanka spin web around Aussies in Kandy

AAP logoAAP 28/07/2016 By Will Knight

Gloom descended on Pallekelle Stadium to prematurely end day four of the first Test - in a way it reflected Australia's chances of victory.

When bad light stopped play on Friday, Sri Lanka's smorgasbord of spinners had made early inroads against an Australian side that could be accused of looking like they were weighed down by history.

Set 268 to win the opening match of the three-Test series, Australia laboured to 3-83 by tea and with dark clouds lingering in the Kandy hills around the ground, no play was possible in the final session and stumps were called.

Skipper Steve Smith, who is 26 not out and Adam Voges (nine not out) will likely have to extend their 20-run partnership well past the 100 mark if Australia - needing another 185 runs for victory - are to give themselves a hope.

Voges was given a life when he successfully reviewed an LBW decision first ball, replays showing Dilruwan Perera's delivery would have turned past leg stump.

Predictably, it was the home side's three spinners who did the damage on Friday afternoon, with Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan and Perera each taking one wicket.

David Warner made one - to go with his duck in the first dig - when he advanced in Herath's first over and was bowled.

Curiously, the ball went under the bat of Warner, who came into the match underdone following a broken finger and looked well out of sorts.

Usman Khawaja (18) and Joe Burns (29) were keen to hit boundaries while the ball was new, but perished on a wicket that didn't seem to have as many gremlins as days one and two.

Australia's batting coach Stuart Law was upbeat about Australia's position heading into the final day given so much time has been lost to rain and bad light, the pitch hasn't worn too much.

"It's not going to be a day-five pitch," he said.

"I think we've played, what, three days? History says teams have chased down big totals in the last innings.

"This one doesn't look like it's deteriorating a great deal. There's not many marks there."

Sri Lanka set the daunting target after they were dismissed for 353 in their second innings, making the tourists face up to their batting frailty on the subcontinent.

Australia's poor record of chasing sizeable totals on the subcontinent is stark - their only successful Test run chase above 200 in the region in 13 attempts was when they made 307 against Bangladesh in 2006, in Dhaka.

They should also take heart from Pakistan's victory at the same ground last July when they made 3-382.

The pitch seemed to have become a little more predictable in bounce and pace after Sri Lanka's fightback from being blasted out for 117 on day one to posting a formidable total in their next opportunity with the bat.

Australia made an unconvincing 203 in their reply when they struggled to cope with Sri Lanka's spin variety of Herath, a left-arm finger spinner, Sandakan, a left-arm wrist spinner and Perera, a right-arm offie.

After rain delayed the start of play on Friday, Sri Lanka's new pin-up Kusal Mendis was dismissed by Mitchell Starc (4-84) for 176 in just the third over.

There were some handy late runs from Sri Lanka as they added 71 runs after resuming at 6-282.

The day didn't start well for Australia with news left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe was heading home after injuring his right hamstring in the field on day three.

He'll be replaced by Victorian spinner Jon Holland, who is almost certain to make his Test debut next week in Galle.

TOP FIVE HIGHEST SUCCESSFUL RUN CHASES IN TESTS IN SRI LANKA

Pakistan 377 v Sri Lanka in Pallekele - July 2015

Sri Lanka 352 v South Africa in Colombo - August 2006

Sri Lanka 326 v Zimbabwe in Colombo - January 1998

India 264 v Sri Lanka in Kandy - August 2001

India 258 v Sri Lanka in Colombo - August 2010

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