Sri Lanka fights back in 2nd test against Australia

·3-min read

GALLE, Sri Lanka (AP) — A record 152-run stand for the second wicket between captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis helped Sri Lanka fight back in the second test against Australia as the hosts finished day two on 184 for two on Saturday, trailing by 180 runs.

After a batting collapse and 10-wicket loss in the first test, Sri Lanka needed to show resolve on a track notorious for spin domination.

Karunaratne and Mendis laid the foundation for a competitive total after opener Pathum Nissanka (6) departed cheaply having been spectacularly caught by Cameron Green at gully off Mitchell Starc.

The sweep shot had proved to be Sri Lanka’s downfall in the first test and on Saturday sweeps were few as the two batsmen banked on their strengths.

Karunaratne drove the spinners well and was often on the front foot during his knock of 86 that produced 10 boundaries. He reached his 30th test fifty by stepping out to leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and smashing him for the mid-wicket boundary.

The partnership was broken when the left-hander attempted to play Swepson across and was plumb in front. The 152-run stand is a record for Sri Lanka for the second wicket against Australia improving on the 143-run partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Marvan Atapattu in 2007 in Hobart.

Mendis was more comfortable against pace pulling and flicking with confidence as he reached his 14th test half-century. He was unbeaten on 84 having faced 152 deliveries and hit nine fours. Angelo Mathews was not out on 6. He had to withdraw from the first test after testing positive for COVID-19.

Sri Lanka batting coach Naveed Nawaz said that after the first test loss his team discussed about batsmen applying themselves without throwing away their wickets.

“The discussion was about when someone gets a start to make it big. There are certain numbers we try to follow as a batting group. If we have not achieved those targets we try to do so next time. I thought we bowled really well yesterday and the batters backed it up today with some excellent performance,” he said.

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne had hit hundreds in Australia’s first innings to help them to 364 all out. The overnight pair of Smith and Alex Carey added 77 runs for the sixth wicket but there was not much resistance from rest of the batters.

Australia resumed from 298 for five and Sri Lanka’s spinners did well to claim the last five wickets for 66 runs as left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya claimed six for 118. He became the sixth Sri Lankan to take five wickets or more in an innings on debut.

Jayasuriya was a late a replacement in the Sri Lankan side after it was forced to bring in additions with several players testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith finished unbeaten on 145 having batted for more than six hours in which he faced 272 deliveries and hit 16 fours. He had posted his 28th test hundred on day one and was rarely troubled by the spinners.

Smith had gone 10 tests since his last century — in January 2021 against India in Sydney.

“I was pretty relaxed to be honest," he said. “I feel like I’ve been batting pretty well without getting a big score. It was nice to get to three figures like it always is. I thought I played really well. I felt switched on from ball one and was very focused.”

Australia has retained the Warne-Murali Trophy following its big win in the first test. If they wrap up the series 2-0, the Australians will further consolidate their position as the world’s No. 1 team.

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