Mitchell Starc has struggled for rhythm and control after an injury in the South Africa Test series which was marred by the infamous ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town. After he returned to action in the series against Pakistan seven months later, Starc struggled for penetration and his below-par performances against Pakistan and India suggested he might be in for a long struggle. In the first Test in Brisbane against Sri Lanka, the voices grew louder as his continued struggle raised questions on his status as the leader of the attack. However, in the Canberra Test, Starc roared back to form with a tremendous haul of 5/46 to go with his haul of 5/54 in the first innings. His second 10-wicket haul gave Australia a 366-run win over Sri Lanka as Tim Paine won a series for the first time, sweeping Sri Lanka 2-0 on Monday.
With Sri Lanka resuming on 17/0 in pursuit of a mammoth 516, the visitors were immediately jolted as Starc accounted for the solid Dimuth Karunaratne, who was cleaned up by an inswinging yorker from the left-hander for 8. This was the eighth time Starc had gotten rid of Karunaratne and the carnage was just beginning. Dinesh Chandimal, the Sri Lankan skipper, was the next to go as he edged a full ball from Starc to third slip. Chandimal’s miserable series ended as he scored just 24 runs in four innings.
Lahiru Thirimanne and Niroshan Dickwella steadied the ship with a solid stand and they found the boundaries on a regular basis. At the other end, Starc was breathing fire and he consistently bowled at an average speed of 151 kmph. The pressure from Starc resulted in a reward for Pat Cummins and he accounted for the solid Thirimanne with a short ball that reared up on the batsman. Thirimanne could only fend it and it took an athletic catch from Cummins on his follow-through to send him back for 30. Dickwella was undone by a fast delivery from Starc that kept low as he was cleaned up for 27.
The left-hander was on a hat-trick as Kusal Perera edged a full ball to Paine to depart for a golden duck. Following the lunch break, Jhye Richardson accounted for Dhananjaya de Silva with a full delivery which the batsman pushed to mid on. Chamika Karunaratne, on debut and Kusal Mendis, looked to attack the Australian bowlers and succeeded for some time.
Chamika hit two boundaries off Starc and a boundary off Marnus Labuschagne but he benefited from a drop by Usman Khawaja at slip off the same bowler. Mendis launched a four and a six off Nathan Lyon but following the drinks break, Mendis’ aggression got the better of him and he mistimed the drive to cover where Kurtis Patterson took the catch. Mendis’ (42) wicket gave Australia the opening they wanted and they proceeded to wrap the innings up quickly.
Chamika (22) fell to Starc as he edged a full delivery while Dilruwan Perera and Vishwa Fernando were dispatched off quickly as Australia registered a 366-run win, their highest win in terms of runs against Sri Lanka. This was Starc’s second 10-wicket haul in Tests, having picked up 11 wickets against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2016. The win was Tim Paine and Justin Langer’s first as captain and coach respectively while for Sri Lanka, their quest for a maiden Test win Down Under has been thwarted yet again.
With the final match of the Australian home summer done, Starc summed up his feelings and stated he tried to forget everything as to what happened in the past. “Tried to come in this week, forget everything and tried to bowl as fast as I could. It slowed down a touch towards the end but it's been a great week for the group. Patty's been on fire all summer, Jhye has been great and the batters have been fantastic this week to cap off a great summer. A summer that is a bit indifferent, but great way to finish for the group,” Starc said.