Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan picked up four wickets apiece for Sri Lanka on day two of the Pallekele Test, but Australia maintained their ascendancy, on yet another day hit by rain. If 12 wickets fell on the opening day, Wednesday was only slightly better, as nine scalps were claimed, taking the total tally of wickets to a whopping 21. The figures clearly indicate that this has been a Test dominated by bowlers from both sides although Australia did just enough to keep the upper hand. In a low-scoring encounter a lead of 86 could prove to be significant.
In the preview to the series, it was clearly mentioned that Herath could be the difference between the two teams. And, Herath lived up to the hype running through the middle order early in the innings. He brought all his guile into play, and proved that this Australian batting outfit definitely has its task cut out against quality spin. While Herath's success was on expected lines, Sandakan's performance was a surprise. He was on debut and under pressure. Instead, he troubled the Aussie lower order, and ran through it without much trouble. Thanks to Herath and Sandakan, Australia were kept to 203.
The day had begun on an optimistic note for Australia as they hoped for Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja to carry on the good work. But, that wasn't to be the case. Skipper Smith danced down the track to Herath in the second over, and was stumped for 30. Australia couldn't have dreaded for a much worse start. But, the trouble was that things weren't going to improve for the visitors. Khawaja, the other overnight batsman, fell soon after Smith, having added only one run. The left-hand batsman failed to get bat on a delivery that came in fast and straight, and the umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger. The double strike raised Lanka's hopes of a fightback.
While Sri Lanka kept chipping away at the wickets, what Australia did well was to get in a couple of handy partnerships. Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh steadied the faltering ship. The duo took Australia to a position of near safety when Marsh fell for 31. He was bowled after failing to pick a wrong 'un from Sandakan. Voges carried on a while longer, and made 47 from 115, the highest score for his side, before hitting Nuwan Pradeep to gully. It was thanks to his effort that Australia managed to cross 200. Among the tail, Steve O'Keefe did a decent job making a hard-fought 23.
Having made a fight back with the ball, Sri Lanka would have been wishing to bat better a second time round. But, the start wasn't encouraging. Kusal Perera, who was promoted to open ahead of Dimuth Karunaratne, managed only four before being trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc. Not long after, it started raining, and stumps were called. How Perera will be cursing his luck.
--By A Cricket Correspondent