Sri Lankans fight back against Australia

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HOBART, Australia, Nov 19 (Reuters) Sri Lankan batsmen Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara both made half-centuries to frustrate Australia's push for victory late on the fourth day of the second test today.

The pair batted through the entire middle session in an unbroken partnership of 124 runs to help Sri Lanka reach tea on 139 for one in their second innings.

Sri Lanka have no real prospects of winning the match after Australia set them a daunting target of 507 but could salvage a morale-boosting draw and end Australia's sequence of 13 consecutive test wins if they bat through the last two days.

Atapattu completed his second half-century of the series to reach tea unbeaten on 74 while Sangakkara posted his second of the match with 51 not out.

Sri Lanka's hopes of holding out for a draw had seemed doomed when they lost opener Michael Vandort before lunch but Atapattu and Sangakkara provided them with a glimmer of hope.

Vandort departed for four in the fourth over when he spooned a simple catch off paceman Mitchell Johnson straight to substitute fielder Rhett Lockyear at point but the Australians were unable to make a second breakthrough.

Atapattu brought up his half-century when he smacked Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill to the boundary while Sangakkara reached the milestone with a sweep off Michael Clarke.

Sri Lanka were sent into bat 45 minutes before lunch when Australian declared their second innings closed at 210 for two after Ricky Ponting had resisted the temptation to enforce the follow-on the previous night.

Australia added 99 runs in 26 overs for the loss of one wicket before Ponting's declaration. Opener Phil Jaques, who had also scored centuries in his previous two innings was caught in the deep by Vandort off Lasith Malinga for 68.

Ponting completed his second half-century of the series to remain unbeaten on 53 while Mike Hussey made 34 not out after scoring hundreds in each of his two previous innings.

REUTERS NY SSC1045

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