Australia took one step closer to ending their international summer on a high as Mitchell Starc took his 10th five-wicket haul and Usman Khawaja, who scored the first century for Australia in the October series against Pakistan, ended his home summer on a high by slamming his eighth Test century as Australia gave Sri Lanka a target of 517 runs in the fourth innings. At stumps on day 3, Sri Lanka ended on 17/0 as bad light and rain brought an early close to the day. However, the day belonged to Starc and Khawaja with both left-handers redeeming their reputation after an underwhelming summer that saw questions being asked from both players.
Both Khawaja and Starc had struggled in the series against Pakistan and India but in the final Test of the home summer against a deflated Sri Lanka outfit, both piled on the agony. The day began on a positive note for Sri Lanka when Dimuth Karunaratne, who was hit on the helmet by a Pat Cummins bouncer, was declared fit to play after being taken to hospital for scans on day 2. However, on the field, there was carnage for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka had resumed the third day at 123 for three and in a hostile morning session lost four wickets and Kusal Perera, who retired after being hit on the head by a bouncer. Their resistance folded in the second over after lunch, with Starc taking five wickets to leave them trailing by 319 after Australia's first innings 534 for five declared. The moment when Kusal was hit on the helmet represented another scary moment in the Test. Both Perera, who resumed on 11, and Dhananjaya de Silva, on one overnight, took blows to the head in the opening two overs. Perera was then hit flush on the helmet ducking into a Richardson ball on 27.
The neck protector flew off and a Sri Lankan physio rushed to his aid. He continued and added two more runs only to call the physio again four balls later. Once again he opted to bat on but was clearly feeling the effects and was helped off the field soon after. He stayed at the ground monitored by medics, but did not play again.
Starc wrecks Sri Lanka
Karunaratne replaced him after being given the green signal to resume his innings and smacked a four to bring up his 22nd Test 50 before being caught at gully by Patterson off Starc. Three balls before, de Silva bizarrely hit his own wicket while attempting a pull shot off Starc. As his bat swung around it took one of the bails off and he was gone for 25. ended with 5-54 to silence his critics after a lean spell.
Paine opted against the follow-on in Australia's last Test batting opportunity before the Ashes tour to England later this year. Khawaja padded up knowing his place in that squad was in doubt after managing a high-score of just 72 across six Tests in a lacklustre summer. There was plenty of moments when Niroshan Dickwella, the Sri Lanka wicketkeeper, went after Khawaja and the banter was that this could be his last Test innings if he failed.
This motivated Khawaja and he notched up a brilliant century as Australia declared. Paine will be determined to end the summer on a high after being battered by South Africa, Pakistan and India in what has been a tough year for Australia following the ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith and David Warner banned.
- With Agency Inputs-