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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK

Sport: Cricket

Aussies slump to record low

Ponting as he was dismissed four runs short of his fourth test century

Ricky Ponting saved Australia from humilation as they were dismissed for 188 - their lowest Test score against Sri Lanka - on the first day of the series opener at the Asgiriya Stadium.

Sri Lanka made a shaky start in pursuit of the total but ended the day nearly halfway there at 69 for two.

Despite losing such early wickets, the day belonged to the Sri Lankans.

[ image: Mark Waugh: Out for six]
Mark Waugh: Out for six
At one stage Australian were 61 for seven as the Sri Lankans tore into their top order.

Chaminda Vaas dismissed openers Michael Slater and Greg Blewett for ducks and only a 96 from Ponting salvaged some sort of respectability to the innings.

Had ninth man Jason Gillespie not contributed a sturdy 41 in his 107-run partnership with Ponting for the eighth wicket, Australia would not even have made 150.

Ponting, who just missed out on his fourth test century, was the last man out, caught and bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan soon after tea to end the Australian innings.

Demolition day

Muralitharan was the most successful Sri Lankan bowler, claiming four wickets for 63.

But it was the early work of Sri Lankan medium pacers Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa, who between them claimed six wickets, which demolished the Australian batting.

Slater was trapped leg before to Vaas in the first over and Blewett was out leg before to Zoysa in the next.

Worse was to follow as Justin Langer edged a catch to Aravinda de Silva off the bowling of Vaas and then Vaas took a return catch off Mark Waugh with the pair having made just 13 between them.

Waugh weary

Captain Steve Waugh and Ponting tried to repair the innings but when Waugh edged a catch to De Silva in the slips off Zoysa, hope of a comeback evaporated.

Australia scored a crucial early breakthrough in the Sri Lankan innings, capturing the wickets of Sanath Jayasuriya for 18 and Russel Arnold for 19 to see the hosts close on 69 for two after 20.2 overs.

Jayasuriya was trapped leg before wicket by Glenn McGrath in the seventh over with Sri Lanka on 22 and Arnold was out similarly to off-spinner Colin Miller without offering a shot to a ball pitched on the stumps.

Australia won the toss on the first day of five at Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy, and chose to bat.

Australia First Innings:
M J Slater lbw b Vaas 0
G S Blewett lbw b Zoysa 0
J L Langer c de Silva b Vaas 7
M E Waugh c and b Vass 6
*S R Waugh c de Silva b Zoysa 19
R T Ponting c and b Muralitharan 96
+I A Healy st Kaluwitharana b Muralitharan 11
S K Warne c Atapattu b Zoysa 0
J N Gillespie lbw b Muralitharan 41
C R Miller c Atapattu b Muralitharan 0
G D McGrath not out 4
Extras (4nb) 4
Total: (all out, 67.1 overs) 188
Fall: 1-0, 2-4, 3-9, 4-16, 5-40, 6-59, 7-60, 8-167, 9-171
Vaas 16 2 43 3
Zoysa 13 2 38 3
Muralitharan 25.1 4 63 4
Jayasuriya 5 0 5 0
Chandana 8 1 39 0

Sri Lanka First Innings: Close of Play.
*S T Jayasuriya lbw b McGrath 18
M S Atapattu not out 25
R P Arnold lbw b Miller 19
Extras (4b, 2lb, 1nb) 7
Total: (2 wickets, 20.2 overs) 69
Fall: 1-22, 2-69
To Bat: P A de Silva, D P M Jayawardene, A Ranatunga, +R S Kaluwitharana, U D U Chandana, W P U J C Vaas, D N T Zoysa, M Muralitharan.
McGrath 6 0 25 1
Gillespie 6 0 21 0
Miller 4.2 2 9 1
Warne 4 2 8 0
Umpires: P T Manuel and S Venkataraghavan.
* = captain
+ = wicketkeeper

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