It proved costly, with Aaron Finch guiding the Renegades over the line with an unbeaten 63 off 49.
Can Michael Clarke be called an abject failure for scoring 50? He can if the yardstick is that set by him during 2012.
Australia’s captain looked set to continue his run avalanche into 2013 when he cantered to a comfortable half-century in the third Test against Sri Lanka.
Perhaps it was too easy, because he then miscued while attempting to hit spinner Rangana Herath out of the SCG and skied a catch to mid-on.
Most batsmen would settle for a 50, but Clarke’s score amounted to less than half what he averaged (106) every time he batted in a Test in the previous calendar year.
At the same time in 2012, at the same ground, he was setting the tone with an imperious 329 not out against India, which became the foundation for his Australian record tally of 1595 runs for the year.
Clarke’s dismissal on Friday was typical of the way Australia’s batsmen perished at their own hands.
Dave Warner did something similar after clubbing a whirlwind 85, Phil Hughes tried one cut too many on 87 and there were two run-outs.
Ed Cowan got himself out cheaply, but the real heartbreak came when farewell hero Mike Hussey fell to a direct hit while attempting a single for Clarke, his despairing dive leaving him centimetres short of the crease.
The Sri Lankans, battling gamely to avoid a 3-0 series whitewash, deserved a few breaks as they fought their way back into the match.
Australia finished day two at 6-342, a lead of 48 runs which they will want to extend past 100 with the prospect of having to bat last on a deteriorating pitch.
SNAPSHOT OF DAY TWO OF THE THIRD CRICKET TEST BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND SRI LANKA AT THE SCG ON FRIDAY:
SCORE: Australia 6-342 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 294, giving the home side a 48-run first-innings lead with four wickets in hand.
MAN OF THE MOMENT: Phil Hughes. Born and bred in NSW, Hughes escaped the fish bowl for South Australia this summer in a desperate bid to fix his game and force his way back into Test cricket. Hughes has so far succeeded and wasn’t overawed in his anticipated return to the SCG. The prodigal son made 87 and only one false cut shot robbed him of his first century on Australian soil.
KEY MOMENT: Mike Hussey’s run-out. The direct hit from Dimuth Karunaratne robbed Mr Cricket of his best chance at a farewell century. Michael Clarke was filthy he’d contributed to the dismissal, but not only for sentimental reasons. Australia could have done with another mammoth partnership from the captain and his most loyal lieutenant.
STAT OF THE DAY: Australia’s top three batsmen collectively involved in three run-outs in three consecutive Tests. Ed Cowan was the victim in Sydney, with David Warner and Phil Hughes caught short in Hobart and Melbourne respectively.
SUMMARY: Australia have the lead, but they’re a long way from setting up victory in the dead-rubber Test that was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. If the tail led by keeper Matt Wade (47no) can continue to wag on Saturday morning and Australia’s quicks fire when it’s their turn to bowl again – the home side should win. But Sri Lanka have a secret weapon when the fourth innings comes around and the pitch breaks up a little more. Spinner Rangana Herath was last year’s leading Test wicket-taker and after taking two scalps on Friday, will back himself to do even more damage if Sri Lanka can stay in the contest. Warner (85), Hughes (87) and Clarke (50) batted well but threw away century chances, and two run-outs were costly.