Australia strikes first after taking 86 runs lead
Rain brought an early end to play for the second consecutive day in the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia in Pallekele on Wednesday (July 27).
At close, Sri Lanka was 6 for 1 in its second innings, having lost Kusal Perera lbw to Mitchell Starc for 4, which left it trailing by 80 runs after Australia’s first innings ended at 203 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 117.
After Perera’s dismissal, a sudden downpour forced the players to take an early tea break. But the deluge soon made it impossible for the match to resume, and the umpires called stumps early again.
Earlier, Australia had gone on to build up a lead of 86 runs, which could prove crucial in the low-scoring match.
That the lead was restricted to less than 100 was down to the spin duo of Rangana Herath, the veteran, and Lakshan Sandakan, the debutant, who took four wickets each while Nuwan Pradeep picked up two wickets.
Having resumed on 66 for 2 with Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith looking to extend their overnight association, Australia came up against Herath, who scalped both set batsmen.
Adam Voges top-scored for the Australians with 47, meaning no player from either side managed to score a half-century in the first innings. He added 60 for the fifth wicket with Mitchell Marsh (31), a stand that pushed Australia into the lead.
Australia was then well served by handy contributions from the lower order, with Steve O’Keefe (23), Starc (11) and Nathan Lyon (17) all hanging around to swell the lead, and make a significant dent in a match dominated by bowlers and affected by the weather.
Herath’s figures of 4 for 49 in 25 overs spoke of the caution with which Australia’s batsmen treated him, and he was easily the most threatening among Sri Lanka’s bowlers. He was the prime mover in keeping the contest alive, and even had a dropped chance off Josh Hazlewood, the last man, which would have brought him a 24th five-wicket haul.
While Herath was providing Angelo Mathews with both the attacking and containing options, Sandakan ran through the lower order to finish with 4 for 58. Pradeep’s 2 for 36 included the important scalp of Voges, who was brilliantly caught by Kusal Mendis at gully after a 115-ball knock that included three fours.