BRISBANE: Australia bundled out Sri Lanka for 144 in just over two sessions before their new-look batting order reached 72 for two to put the hosts in a commanding position on day one of the series opening day-night Test at the Gabba on Thursday.
Mitchell Starc also claimed his 200th Test wicket to add to a satisfying day for the Australians who came into the two-match series on the back of a 2-1 series loss to India.
Marcus Harris was 40 not out at close with nightwatchman Nathan Lyon yet to score with Australia trailing by only 72 runs at the Gabba where they have not lost a Test in 30 years.
New vice-captain Pat Cummins was the pick of the Australian bowlers claiming 4-39 while fellow paceman Jhye Richardson (3-26) made an impressive debut as Australia rolled Sri Lanka in 56.4 overs after touring captain Dinesh Chandimal won the toss and elected to bat.
“The way the guys performed as a collective today, credit to them,” Richardson said. “Credit to Patty [Cummins], credit to Starcy [Starc] who bowled really aggressively, you can’t fault anything they’ve done. They were a big help for me.”
Only Niroshan Dickwella offered stubborn resistance for Sri Lanka scoring an enterprising 64 with six boundaries and a six.
Cummins and Richardson set the early tone, striking in successive overs to remove Lahiru Thirimanne (12) and Chandimal (5) in the first hour before Lyon claimed Dimuth Karunaratne (24) to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 56-3 at tea.
After the break, Richardson produced a near unplayable delivery to bowl Kusal Mendis for 14 and then had Dhananjaya de Silva caught behind for five to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 66-5.
“To see the ball swing that’s a big key for me,” Richardson, 22, said. “If the ball is swinging I’m instantly more confident in what I’m doing and to get that first wicket it releases a lot of emotion.”
Roshen Silva (9) lasted 56 deliveries before he edged Cummins behind to Australian captain Tim Paine.
In Cummins’ next over, Dilruwan Perera received a nasty blow to his right thumb from a rising ball and was forced off the field.
Sri Lanka eventually reached 100 in the 46th over, before Suranga Lakmal was caught by Marnus Labuschagne at slip giving Starc his landmark 200th Test wicket, becoming the 17th Australian to achieve the feat.
Perera (1) returned to the field but survived only minutes before becoming Starc’s (2-41) second victim, offering another catch to Labuschagne.
Cummins dismissed Dickwella and Chameera in the same over shortly after the dinner break, leaving Australia’s new opening pair of Joe Burns and Harris with 25 overs to bat in tricky conditions under lights.
Burns made 15 in his return to the Test team before edging to slip off Lakmal (1-27) and Usman Khawaja (11) fell just minutes before close when he played on to his stumps from Perera to give Sri Lanka a much-needed boost ahead of day two.
“We need to dry up the runs,” said Karunaratne. “Otherwise if they score freely it’s really tough for us. If we can get a couple of early wickets and if Dilruwan [Perera] can bowl really well, I think we’re in the game.”
SRI LANKA (1st Innings):
F.D.M. Karunaratne c Paine b Lyon 24
H.D.R.L. Thirimanne c L’chagne b Cummins 12
L.D. Chandimal c Burns b Richardson 5
B.K.G. Mendis b Richardson 14
A.R.S. Silva c Paine b Cummins 9
D.M. de Silva c Paine b Richardson 5
N. Dickwella c Patterson b Cummins 64
M.K.D. Perera c L’chagne b Starc 1
R.A.S. Lakmal c L’chagne b Starc 7
P.V.D. Chameera c Patterson b Cummins 0
C.B.R.L.S. Kumara not out 0
EXTRAS (W-1, NB-2) 3
TOTAL (all out, 56.4 overs) 144
FALL OF WKTS: 1-26, 2-31, 3-54, 4-58, 5-66, 6-91, 7-102, 8-106, 9-144. BOWLING: Starc 12-2-41-2 (2nb): Richardson 14-5-26-3 (1w); Cummins 14.4-3-39-4; Lyon 16-3-38-1.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings):
M.S. Harris not out 40
J.A. Burns c Mendis b Lakmal 15
U.T. Khawaja b Perera 11
N.M. Lyon not out 0
EXTRAS (LB-3, W-1, NB-2) 6
TOTAL (for two wkts, 25 overs) 72
Fall of wkts: 1-37, 2-72. TO BAT: M. Labuschagne, T.M. Head, K.R. Patterson, T.D. Paine, P.J. Cummins, M.A. Starc, J.A. Richardson. BOWLING (to-date): Lakmal 9-3-27-1 (1nb); Kumara 6-0-24-0 (1w); Chameera 7-1-14-0 (1nb); Perera 3-2-4-1. UMPIRES: M. Erasmus (South Africa) and R.K. Illingworth (England). TV UMPIRE: M.A. Gough (England).
MATCH REFEREE: J. Srinath (India).
Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019