Herath hat-trick puts Lanka on top in Galle

Galle (Sri Lanka)—The second day in Galle finished as it started: with Steven Smith at the crease facing Dilruwan Perera. Australia would take that result if it meant a captain’s innings, a double-century to drag his side back into the series. The reality was a world away from that, for in between Perera had taken five wickets and scored a half-century, Rangana Herath had claimed a hat-trick, 21 wickets had tumbled, and Australia had collapsed to their lowest ever Test total against Sri Lanka.
This was the day on which Sri Lanka made certain that they would lift the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy for the first time. It was not yet struck in 1999, the only other occasion on which they beat Australia in a series. Indeed, that was the only other occasion on which they beat Australia in a Test. In the first 33 years of Test cricket between the two countries, Sri Lanka won just a single game. They will now do so twice in a fortnight.
Australia were set 413 for victory, which would be the third-highest successful chase in Test history. Gettable, perhaps, for an in-form batting unit on a pitch to their liking, if everything fell their way. But this Australian outfit was demolished in the first innings for 106, on a turning surface against a quality spin attack. Australia have as much chance of winning this Test as they do of winning Olympic gold in baseball. And no, baseball is no longer on the Olympic roster.
By stumps, Australia were already 25 for 3 in their chase. Joe Burns had driven a catch to cover off Herath in the first over. Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon had poked a catch to silly point off Perera. And next ball, Usman Khawaja had watched an arm ball from Perera crash into his stumps. Dazed and confused, Khawaja offered no shot. His dismissal was emblematic of the day: Australia had no clue whether each ball from a Sri Lanka spinner would turn or not.
And so at the close of play, Smith walked off on 1, with David Warner on 22, and a Sri Lankan victory inside three days appeared all but certain. The afternoon consisted largely of Sri Lanka’s batsmen frustrating Australia, growing their lead and humiliating their visitors further. Herath and Perera, who tormented Australia with the ball at either end of the day, scored nearly as many runs between them as Australia did in the first innings.
The story of this day was the first session, in which Australia lost eight wickets for 52 runs. The cricket felt like it was played in fast-forward and at times the action was so comical that the Benny Hill theme would have been appropriate. The pitch was turning, but it was far from a poor surface. But it was as if Australia’s batsmen had never seen spinners before. They simply wondered at this mysterious slow form of bowling.
Sri Lanka’s spinners attacked the stumps and built persistent pressure. Herath turned some and skidded others on. So did Perera. Lakshan Sandakan didn’t, but that was only because all the work was done already. Such was the annihilation that he came on only to collect the final wicket, and finished with 1 for 0 from two deliveries.—AFP

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