16/04/2024

The Australians celebrate in the first Test. (Image: cricket.com.au/Twitter)

Sri Lanka and Australia played one of the more interesting series in recent times. Both teams were able to string a big win against the other, raising a few talking points.

Sri Lanka and Australia played one of the more interesting Test series in recent times. Both teams were able to string a big win against the other, raising a few talking points.

Both matches were played at the Galle International Stadium. This begged the question: why were the matches so lopsided?

Across the two Tests, only seven days of gameplay ensued. The first Test reached a result in the first session of day three. The second was longer, as it was completed in the third session of day four.

Here are the moments that mattered in Galle.

Spinners paradise

The spin bowlers won the luck of the draw once again, dominating the pitch. During the one-day series, the pitches were quite spin-friendly, suggesting this was expected.

In the first Test, the Australian spinners made a mess of the Sri Lankan order. Within the first Sri Lankan innings, Australia held them to just 212. Nathan Lyon posted 5/90 (25.0) and Mitchell Swepson took 3/55 (13.0).

The second Sri Lankan innings was just as good, as the spinners took every wicket available. Lyon took 4/31 (11.0) and Swepson posted 2/34 (7.0). Part-timer Travis Head miraculously took 4/10 from just 17 deliveries.

Through the damage they dealt, the match was able to be completed in just over three days. Lyon, Swepson and Head combined for 18 of the 20 wickets available, at an average of 12.22.

Cameron Green’s potential continues to grow

In the first innings of the first Test, Green stood up to the plate. With the Aussies in a decent position, Green was hoping to add to the tally.

Little did he know the significance his innings would have. Six boundaries and 109 balls later, Green had made 77. Topping the scoring for the Australians, he struck at just over 70 per cent.

Australia marched to a first innings total of 321, before it dismantled Sri Lanka in its second innings.

David Warner got the all clear to go ‘hell for leather’, winning the match just four balls into the final inning.

After just 14 Test matches, Green’s statistics are more than great for an all-rounder. Green has scored 723 runs, averaging 36.15 per innings. He got ever so close to his highest score of 84, but fell just short.

This isn’t even to mention his bowling statistics. Green has taken 16 wickets from his 14 matches, averaging 32.12 runs per wicket.

His work in the field is also exceptional, taking a number of great catches in and around the gully. He has only been in the Test game since 2020, but his potential only grows every match.

Run out controversy

Steve Smith was surrounded by controversy for his reaction after being run out, following a mix-up with Usman Khawaja.

Both batsmen agreed to run a single before Khawaja changed his mind. He sent Smith back as he was halfway up the pitch, causing him to be run out.

Smith appeared to overreact in the opinions of Australian pundits, particularly Mark Taylor. “He went too long with it,” Taylor said.

https://twitter.com/SENWestAus/status/1542719644645163008

After being run out, Smith walked back to the rooms and still appeared to be angered, 15 minutes later.

The ugly altercation sparked opinions on social media, which had Smith trending for all of the bad reasons.

The Australians were then suddenly 3/83, after losing Smith for just 6 (11). Khawaja went on to create a big innings of 71 (130) – the second-highest score by an Australian in that inning.

Their ship was steadied by Khawaja and Green both scoring in the seventies. This brought the Aussies to 321 once their innings was complete.

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Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith go for glory

Coming off the back of a 10 wicket win, Australia looked to replicate that standard of cricket in the second Test.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat, and it proved to be a good decision by the end of the innings.

Despite a number of cheap dismissals, Labuschagne and Smith powered on, producing a monster innings.

Labuschagne made 104 (156), the seventh Test ton of his career. Smith went bigger, scoring 145* (272), his 28th Test ton. His tally of 28 moves him only one rung below the great Sir Donald Bradman – on 29.

Due to the help from Labuschagne and Smith, Australia posted a first innings total of 364, more than what it achieved in the first innings of their 10-wicket win.

Dream debut

Some magic was needed from Sri Lanka in order to turn the odds back in its favour. Australia had demolished the hosts in the first Test and things had to change.

Prabath Jayasuriya was welcomed into the Sri Lankan Test team for the first time. The left-arm orthodox bowler would provide some extra turn on the spin-friendly pitch.

And Provide some extra turn he did. In his first innings, Jayasuriya picked himself up a six-wicket haul, with figures of 6/118 (36.0). In doing so, he got the big wicket of Labuschagne for 104 (156). His other five wickets included Head, Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc and Lyon.

His second bowling innings was just as impressive. The Australians crumbled after Sri Lanka posted a massive first innings total.

Jayasuriya picked up another six wickets, producing a 12-wicket haul on debut. In the second innings, he picked up the wickets of Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith, Green, Starc and Swepson.

With both innings combined, Jayasuriya tallied a total of 12/177 – the fourth-best figures for a debutant in Test history.

Sri Lanka’s hero to the rescue

Australia posted an impressive 364 in the first innings, meaning Sri Lanka would need a big response to stay in the match.

In stepped Dinesh Chandimal. The 32-year-old slogged the Aussies around for a whopping 206* (326).

Along with the help of Dimuth Karunaratne (86), Kusal Mendis (85), Angelo Mathews (52) and Kamindu Mendis (61), Sri Lanka posted a score of 554.

His innings of 206* was the highest score of his 11-year Test career, beating his previous best of 164 against India in 2017.

Chandimal becomes the 12th Sri Lankan to score a double century. It is also the highest score by a Sri Lankan against Australia. He beat the previous record of 192 held by Kumar Sangakkara since 2007.

The Sri Lankan was awarded as the player of the series, his double hundred a big part of that.

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