Australia A will resume the final day of their two-week Sri Lankan tour needing another 330 runs to sweep the four-day matches after the hosts’ tail wagged to set up an imposing target of 367 runs.
Scott Boland again pushed his claims for a Test recall with 3-51 from 19 overs as the visitors clawed their way back into the contest during the morning session of day three, reducing Sri Lanka A to 6-99 with a lead of 175.
He was helped by Mark Steketee (2-55) and Jon Holland (2-85) as Australia A looked to limit the damage after having conceded a 76-run first innings deficit.
But 21-year-old left-hander Nipun Dhananjaya, who boasts an average of 40 with a highest score of 150 n.o. in his 11 first-class appearances to date, led the fight back for the Sri Lankans with a composed 77 from 130 balls.
His ally was Sahan Arachchige, who retired hurt midway through his innings, before returning to post 58 with five boundaries.
Australia’s first innings nemesis Lakshitha Manasinghe also contributed a handy 25 (26), while leg-spinner Suminda Lakshan finished 30 not out as Sri Lanka A were bowled out for 290 in their second innings with their last four wickets adding 191 runs.
That set Australia A a fourth innings chase of 367 on a wearing pitch at Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Hambantota, and they lost Queensland opener Matt Renshaw for a golden duck in the third over of the innings.
Skipper Marcus Harris (11 n.o.) and South Australian Henry Hunt (20 n.o.) negotiated the remaining overs until stumps without further loss. Australia A will start day four on 1-37 and face an uphill battle to haul in the target.
Boland got the day off to a perfect start for the tourists as he claimed Mohamed Shiraz (7) and Nuwanidu Fernando (0) in the space of 13 balls when they both feathered edges through to wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson.
Peirson then took a stunning diving catch down the leg-side off the bowling of Steketee to remove the dangerous Test-capped Sadeera Samarawickrama for 20.
Holland picked up his second wicket of the innings shortly after with Sri Lanka A skipper Kamindu Mendis bowled for 48.
Young NSW leg-spinner Tanveer Sangha, who finished with nine wickets across the four-match ‘A’ tour, was the next to breakthrough 73 runs later when he had Manasinghe trapped in front.
The 20-year-old claimed the next two wickets of top-scorer Dhananjaya and Arachchige to finish with 3-53 from 16 overs before Boland returned to wrap up the Sri Lanka A innings with his third wicket, that of Dilshan Madushanka.
Sri Lanka ‘A’: 330-9d (Nipun Dhananjaya 92, Lahiru Udara 63, Sahan Arachchige 61, Scott Bolland 4-38, Mark Steketee 4-69) and 290 all out (Nipun Dhananjaya 77, Sahan Arachchige 58, Scott Boland 3-51)
Australia ‘A’: 254 all out (Jimmy Peirson 67, Marcus Harris 39, Lakshitha Manasinghe 5-82) and 37-1 (Henry Hunt 20*, Lakshitha Manasinghe 1-9)