x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Australia's 'fantastic tour' makes up for horrible Ashes, says captain

Clarke proud of his boys after winning the Test series against Sri Lanka even as Nielsen says he will not reapply for coach's job when it comes up for renewal.

A record partnership of 176 by Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey denied Sri Lanka any chance to level the series. Eranga Jayawardena / AP Photo
A record partnership of 176 by Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey denied Sri Lanka any chance to level the series. Eranga Jayawardena / AP Photo

COLOMBO // Michael Clarke hit his 15th Test century to lead Australia to a draw in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka yesterday and a 1-0 win in his first series as captain.

The series victory came shortly before an announcement that Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, was stepping down after four-and-a-half years in the post rather than reapplying for his job.

On Nielsen's last day in charge, Clarke and Michael Hussey put together a record fifth-wicket partnership of 176 to inflict a first home defeat in a Test series on Sri Lanka since they lost to Pakistan in 2006.

The visitors, who had trailed Sri Lanka by 157 runs after the first innings, were dismissed for 488 in their second on the final day. Sri Lanka were left needing 332 for victory off 17 overs and had made 7-0 in two overs when the match ended.

"It's been a fantastic tour," Clarke told reporters. "Both the one-day series and Test series have certainly gone to plan ... We got the two major results, we won both series. I am really proud how the boys have played and personally it was nice to finally get to those three-figures."

Clarke and Hussey came together after Phil Hughes (126) was dismissed in the sixth over of the final day, and the experienced duo recorded Australia's highest partnership for the fifth wicket against Sri Lanka.

During his 178-ball stay at the wicket, Clarke escaped two stumping chances to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene on scores of 14 and 71 and also survived a run out attempt on 13 when Kumar Sangakkara failed to hit the stumps from mid-off.

"Throughout my career there's been plenty of ups and downs but of late, in Test cricket there's probably been more downs than ups," Clarke said.

"I had a horrible Ashes series, and to be able to help this team win this series by making some runs today is very special."

Hussey, the leading run-scorer in the series with 463, missed out on a second century in the match when he was dismissed for 93.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, said Hussey had made the difference in the series.

"He batted at Galle with the tail-enders and got 95 and changed the complexion of the match," Dilshan said. "He did the same at Pallakele and got a hundred. Here in the third Test he got another hundred. He is the main guy in their batting line up. They are very strong with him in the middle and they bat around him."

* Reuters