HomeSports NewsRecent Match Report - Sri Lanka vs Australia 1st Test 2022

Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Australia 1st Test 2022

Stumps Australia 98 for 3 (Khawaja 47*, Head 6*, Ramesh Mendis 2-35) trail Sri Lanka 212 (Dickwella 58, Mathews 39, Lyon 5-90, Swepson 3-55) by 114 runs

Nathan Lyon roared again in Galle, returning to the site where it all began for him in 2011, to claim his 20th Test five-wicket haul and give Australia a slight edge on a chaotic first day of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Lyon claimed 5 for 90 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 212 after winning a crucial toss on a surface that spun sharply and had balls going through the top within the first hour of play. Usman Khawaja then made a fortuitous unbeaten 47 to guide Australia to stumps three down in a frantic final hour where Ramesh Mendis claimed two wickets and Steven Smith was run out after a mix-up.

Niroshan Dickwella earlier made a pulsating 58 to top-score for Sri Lanka but missed two difficult stumping chances later on, including one off Khawaja.

Mitchell Swepson also took his best figures in Test cricket, claiming 3 for 55, and was on a hat-trick at one stage, proving his worth as Australia’s second spinner after his place was in doubt in the lead-in to the Test match.

Much like the impact Lyon made with his first ball in Test cricket in 2011, his first ball of the morning gave a clear indication of what was to follow. Called into the attack in just the sixth over of the match, Lyon’s first ball drifted into middle and leg from around the wicket, brought up a puff of dust after pitching, spun sharply past the edge, and bounced so prodigiously that it hit wicketkeeper Alex Carey in the grill of his helmet before he had a chance to get his gloves up. Carey had to do a mandatory concussion test despite having a wry smile on his face.

Lyon bowled unchanged from that point until the 48th over despite being treated for back spasms from the Australian team physio several times during the morning. He went wicketless in the first session, but the pressure he created helped Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc make the only two breakthroughs before lunch with Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis both edging behind playing loose strokes.

Lyon’s reward came after lunch when he got the better of Dimuth Karunaratne after the Sri Lanka skipper had guided the team to the break at 68 for 2. Lyon got one to slide on and catch a thick inside edge, which ballooned off Karunaratne’s pad in front of square on the off side. David Warner, ever alert, dived forward from second slip at full stretch to catch it in his left hand.

Swepson then produced two gems to double his Test tally. Having bowled 544 balls in Pakistan for just two wickets, he produced two legbreaks in two balls to leave Sri Lanka rattled.

The first was at 87kph, drifting into middle and leg, and spinning sharply across Dhananjaya de Silva to catch his outside edge. The next ball was slower at 82kph, drifting into leg stump and spinning even more to catch a thicker edge off Dinesh Chandimal’s bat. It bounced off the outside of Carey’s gloves this time and ricocheted to Warner at second slip – Warner juggled it multiple times as he rolled on to his back, but eventually clutched the ball to his arm before it touched the ground.

Dickwella then produced his counterattack to prevent Australia’s spinners from getting a run on. He walked out to face the hat-trick ball with Sri Lanka teetering at 97 for 5. But he decided attack was the best form of defence for him, unfurling a raft of high-quality sweeps, reverse sweeps and slog sweeps to reach an unbeaten half-century in just 42 balls. He took 14 from one Lyon over and never faced more than four dots in a row.

He got good support initially from Angelo Mathews. But Lyon was able to eventually force a mistake with Warner taking a third superb catch at leg slip to dismiss Mathews for 39. Dickwella and Ramesh Mendis then added 54 for the seventh wicket. Sri Lanka reached tea at 191 for 6 having scored 123 runs in a rollicking second session.

But the break halted Dickwella’s momentum. Save for an outrageous scoop over the keeper for four off Cummins, Dickwella faced eight dots in 12 balls as Lyon took control again. Lyon trapped Ramesh plumb in front, although he needed a review to overturn umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s not-out decision.

Dickwella fell sweeping when Lyon changed the angle to over the wicket and Carey held a neat catch off a little bottom edge. Lyon’s fifth came via a stunning catch at mid-on from Khawaja, when he flew across to hold on to a well-struck swipe from Lasith Embuldeniya. Sri Lanka lost their last four wickets for 19 runs as debutant Jeffrey Vandersay holed out off Swepson to end the innings.

Australia made a blistering start in reply with Warner pumping five boundaries in 24 balls. Sri Lanka had picked three specialist spinners but opened the bowling with their one quick and the part-time offspin of de Silva. Warner crunched back-to-back boundaries off Asitha Fernando to take him out of the attack after one over. He did the same to the left-arm orthodox of Embuldeniya before Karunaratne finally brought on his only specialist offspinner, Ramesh, in the fourth over to the two left-handers and the game changed. Khawaja was given out lbw to a ball that spun from outside leg but was able to overturn it on review. Warner wasn’t so fortunate, pinned in front by one that didn’t turn and beat his inside edge.

Marnus Labuschagne tried to emulate Dickwella with sweeps and reverse sweeps but picked out the only man between mid-off and the keeper with an uncontrolled reverse to fall for 13.

Labuschagne’s disbelief was only bettered by Smith’s when he fell. After a loud lbw shout against him off Ramesh was turned down, the ball rolled to the offside, and Khawaja and Smith started to run. But Khawaja sent Smith back very late and he was caught well short and left no one in any doubt as to his feelings about the dismissal. That should have been compounded had Dickwella taken either stumping chance off Khawaja or Head. But Ramesh produced two deliveries that bounced sharply above his gloves, as Lyon had done with his first ball of the day.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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