Sri Lanka back in the saddle courtesy Rangana Herath

Daily Mirror — August 16, 2016

A day which started with Australia in a good position to pile up a big lead ended with Sri Lanka two runs shy of setting a target, as Rangana Herath broke the back and tail of the visiting batsmen with his third five-wicket haul of the series.

Sri Lanka ended the third day on 22 for one with Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva — two batsmen whose recent performances have cast a shadow over their future in the team — at the crease unbeaten on eight and six respectively, trailing the Aussies by two runs.

Silva did not open the batting after he suffered a split webbing between the ring and little fingers of his left hand while fielding, with Dilruwan Perera partnering Karunaratne instead. But after Perera padded up to Mitchell Starc, right in front of the stumps on the fourth ball of the innings and was adjudged leg before wicket, Silva was sent out to bat.

Having gone 21 overs without a wicket, Herath helped Sri Lanka claw their way back into the game with a six-wicket haul — his second six-for of the series — as the Australians were bowled out for 379.

Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith had negotiated with some ease Sunday’s final session, and it was more of the same yesterday, with Australia still needing another 214 runs to wipe out the deficit when play began. Both batsman gave little away, while also scoring at a good pace, proving that the right technique could nullify the impact of the Sri Lankan spinners as the home team were left wicket-less before lunch.

Marsh survived an early chance, in the day’s fourth over, when an outside edge flew to Angelo Mathews at first slip. The ball popped in and out of the Sri Lankan captain’s hands, and that was the last real effort to break the partnership till the lunch session.

In that first session, both batsmen reached their centuries with two innings of quality that will likely be a blueprint for the touring batsmen in future sub-continental efforts.

Marsh was particularly skillful against the spinners, reaching his century with a sweep shot that may have actually hit the pad, but was credited to the batsman. He reached triple figures in 214 balls with 19 boundaries. It was Marsh’s fourth Test ton, and the second in Sri Lanka having scored 141 during the Australia’s last tour to Sri Lanka in 2011. Smith reached his century three overs later. His innings came at a quicker pace than Marsh’s, in 176 balls, but with fewer boundaries, nine, and one six.

After Australia reached lunch at 235 for one, Sri Lanka took the new ball at its earliest availability, at the end of the 80th over.

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews brought Suranga Lakmal back into the attack and it almost paid off when Marsh edged the ball at an awkward height to gully fieldsman Kusal Mendis, who failed to hold onto it, the ball running to the boundary for added insult. Another edge, in the following over bowled by Mathews, fell short of first slip.

A breakthrough finally came in the next over, the 41st of the day. The new ball was posing a new challenge to the batsmen who had spent a majority of their innings blocking spinners, but leaving the ball became just as important. Marsh left three, and then was caught between playing and leaving a ball outside off-stump, which he ended up dragging onto his stumps instead.

The 246-run partnership was the highest second-wicket partnership for Australia against Sri Lanka, and the second highest partnership the tourists have put up here. It was also the fourth highest partnership for any wicket for the Aussies against Sri Lanka. It even surpassed Australia’s previous highest innings total in the series, of 203.

Herath was brought on — after five new-ball overs — and he struck with his second ball, having Smith lunge forward and miss a ball that spun away from him sharply with keeper Kusal Perera reacting quickly to stump the batsman. The third umpire Richard Kettleborough was convinced enough that no part of the foot was behind the crease, and Smith’s innings was over, his 119 the highest score by an Australian captain in Sri Lanka.

Adam Voges had been one of Australia’s better batsman against spin, and he and Moises Henriques looked to build on the good work of the second-wicket pair.

While Voges has had some success against spinners this series, Henriques was playing his first innings having been brought in for Usman Khawaja. He was stumped — a carbon copy of Smith’s dismissal — in Herath’s third over with the new ball, the spinners second wicket.

A fifth-wicket stand of 33 took Australia to tea on 316 for five — Voges finding in partner in all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. It didn’t last after the break however, when Herath, bowling the first over after tea struck almost immediately when Voges was trapped leg before for 22.

Herath had an appeal against Peter Nevill given in his next over, but the Australian keeper reviewed and the decision was overturned. He wasn’t so lucky with his next review, ten overs later, when he was adjudged leg before wicket to Perera, playing for turn to a ball that was coming straight at his pads.

Marsh was Herath’s fourth victim when he flicked straight to Kusal Mendis at short-leg, out for a well-made 53 — the second half century of his 17-match career.

He proved to be the last piece of resistance, as Sri Lanka wrapped up the Aussie innings in the space of the next ten runs — Herath finishing with the wickets of Josh Hazlewood and Jon Holland, with Perera accounting for the wicket of Nathan Lyon which was his second of the game.


Originally published at www.wisdenindia.com on August 15, 2016.

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