Tue, 25 Jun 2024

Five for Lyon, Australia hold edge


By Shehan Daniel reporting from Galle

A five-wicket haul for Nathan Lyon was key to restricting Sri Lanka to 212 on the opening day of the first Test for the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy 2022 in Galle on Wednesday, before the Australians reduced that deficit to 114 by stumps.

Australia’s response was swift, at least in the first hour, with David Warner striking five boundaries and racing to 25 off 23 balls, benefitting from poor bowling from Sri Lanka’s spinners, who struggled to hone in on the lines and lengths that Lyon and leg spinner Mitchell Swepson had found earlier in the day.

The hosts had however gained a foothold back in the game with three wickets by the end of a riveting day’s play.

True to script, the Galle pitch provided ample turn, made all the more potent by unpredictable explosions of bounce, used to good effect by Lyon to claim his 20th five-wicket haul.

Australia’s positive approach gave them 47 runs in nine overs, before Ramesh Mendis finally made a breakthrough when a forward-defending Warner was trapped leg before wicket.

With that dismissal Sri Lanka clawed back the momentum, and though Marnus Labuschagne swept Lasith Embuldeniya for two successive fours – the left-arm spinner off-kilter, conceding six boundaries in seven overs – Mendis earned a second wicket in the next over when Labuschagne reverse swept straight to the fielder at point.

As Sri Lanka’s bowlers found their range, the number of chances began to rise and appeals rang louder – an appeal for LBW resulting in a mix-up between Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith, with the latter walking off disgruntled after being run out for 6.

Khawaja remained unbeaten on 47, with the Australians on 98 for 3 at stumps, the game looking a lot different to when he and Warner were scoring more freely and showed more positive intent.

It was the same kind of intent that Niroshan Dickwella had shown during Sri Lanka’s innings, scoring a 42-ball half-century, and proving that attack may just the best form of defense on this Galle pitch.

Walking into bat with Sri Lanka on 97 for 5, and Swepson on a hat-trick, Dickwella showed his hand early, attempting a sweep on the first ball he faced.

That would be his modus operandi right through his innings, scoring four out of his five boundaries with either a sweep or a reverse sweep.

On a pitch where those who came before him had to scratch around for runs, Dickwella scored at more than a run-a-ball, reaching his 21st half-century in just 42 deliveries -- his approach seemingly rubbing off on Mendis too, who was scoring at a rate not far behind his partner’s.

Both would end up being among Lyon’s five wickets, Mendis out leg before wicket on review and Dickwella falling, unsurprisingly, to a misjudged sweep.

Lyon posed questions from his first delivery – literally, the first ball the spinner bowled pitched on middle and leg and spun sharply beating the outside edge of Dimuth Karunaratne.

And despite bowling 11 tidy overs before lunch, it was only after that break that Lyon had his first wicket, Karunaratne lobbing a catch to David Warner at gully, Sri Lanka 74 for 3 at that stage.

A partnership of 23 between Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva was broken by Swepson, who them added the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal off his next delivery.

Dickwella then got to work with his counter-attacking ways, doing a bulk of the scoring in his 42-run stand with Mathews, and threatening to undo the good work the Australians had done up to that point.

It was persistent Lyon, in his 20th straight over, who would end quell those threats, spinning one across that Mathews guided to the fielder at leg slip.

The Dickwella-Mendis partnership had taken Sri Lanka to tea on 191 for 6, but further damage was mitigated when Lyon dismissed both batters in his first two overs after the break, and then completing his five-wicket haul in his next over, thanks to an excellent diving catch by Khawaja at wide mid-on.

 



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