Australia counter strongly after Chandimal ton

Ssc—As a sign of what was to come, the first hour of this Test was less accurate than a horoscope. When Sri Lanka collapsed to 26 for 5, nobody would have predicted they would go on to the highest total of the series. Nor, for that matter, that Australia would then bat as well as they have at any time on this tour. But that was the case, for after those first five wickets tumbled in roughly an hour, the next 11 hours of the Test have brought only five more.
On the second day, Dinesh Chandimal scored the seventh century of his Test career, an innings of immense pa-tience that pushed – sometimes at the pace of a boulder up a hill – Sri Lanka to 355. Australia, in reply, had moved to 141 for 1 at the close of play. Only once in this series had an Australian scored a fifty, but now two did so in a session. Steven Smith was on 61 and Shaun Marsh was on 64, and their unbroken 120-run stand was comfortably Australia’s best of the series.
There still remained plenty of work for Australia’s batsmen, particularly considering their allrounders begin at No.5, but at least they had started impressively. Marsh, included for the first time in this series at the expense of opener Joe Burns, looked relatively comfortable against Sri Lanka’s spinners. He used his feet well, worked the ball through leg and punished through off when given width. And, importantly, he often picked the turn out of the hand.
There were nervous moments for Marsh, balls that turned past the bat, a big lbw review late in the day that showed the ball pitching outside leg, an edge that flew just past Kaushal Silva at silly point. Smith had luck too, when he defended Rangana Herath, and Silva at silly point hurled himself onto the pitch to drop a hard chance. Smith was on 30, and went on to complete an 88-ball fifty, along the way becoming the youngest Australian to reach 4000 runs in Tests.
Smith used his feet and was strong through cover, even lifting a six over extra cover off Herath. Sri Lanka relied heavily on their spinners, Suranga Lakmal coming on as third change for just four overs of pace. Dilruwan Perera had taken the new ball and lobbed up a full toss first delivery of the innings, which David Warner dispatched for six. But on 11, Warner danced down the pitch to Dhananjaya de Silva and under-edged a catch behind.
Sri Lanka had started the day at 214 for 5 and added a further 141 runs for the loss of their final five wickets. Or, to be more accurate, four wickets, for Herath retired hurt on 33 when he was struck in the groin by Josh Hazlewood. Herath’s batting has frustrated the Australians throughout this campaign, and by the time he gingerly walked off, Herath had made more runs in the entire series than any Australian but Smith.
On the subject of records embarrassing to Australia, Chandimal occupied the crease for 356 deliveries during his innings, nearly 100 balls more (at that stage) than any Australian had survived in the whole series. His century came up from 281 deliveries. Having walked to the crease on the first morning at 24 for 4, Chandimal had to show some fight. He did that, his patience an example to the Australians of what could be achieved on a dry pitch.
Chandimal and de Silva had rescued Sri Lanka from their extremely precarious first-morning position with a 211-run partnership, the highest sixth-wicket partnership in Test history from a score of five down for fewer than 50. De Silva moved on to 129 before he was drawn forward by Lyon’s length, and, deceived by the dip, inside-edged a catch to bat-pad.
After de Silva’s departure, Chandimal carried on in his patient method and eventually brought up his century with a single worked behind square leg off Lyon. It was a fitting way for Chandimal to register his milestone, for the nudged and nurdled ones and twos had been such a key feature of his innings. At times, though, he was more ex-pansive, as when he reverse-swept Lyon for a six.
When Chandimal did provide a chance to the Australians, on 100, they failed to take it, Smith grassing an edge at slip off Jon Holland. Smith took three catches for the innings, but spilled two: at slip, he also put down Herath. Chandimal continued to accumulate while the tail-enders kept him company. Dilruwan Perera made a quick 16 before he holed out to long-off from the bowling of Holland.
Herath then joined Chandimal and frustrated the Australians with three boundaries during a 73-run partnership that ended only when Herath retired hurt. Chandimal eventually was caught behind for 132, Peter Nevill taking a sharp chance off Mitchell Starc, and the innings wrapped up with Lakmal caught at gully. That wicket also went to Starc, who finished with 5 for 63. Remarkably, it was his third five-for of the series. A little more help, and it could have been a contest.

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