Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day September 3, 2011

Harris takes five in Australia's victory

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Australia 273 (Hussey 95, Herath 3-54) and 210 (Clarke 60, Herath 5-79) beat Sri Lanka 105 (Paranavitana 29, Lyon 5-34) and 253 (M Jayawardene 105, Mathews 95, Harris 5-62) by 125 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The Michael Clarke era might not match the Ricky Ponting years for sheer victory numbers, but Clarke has at least started his tenure as Australia's full-time Test captain the same way as his predecessor - with a comfortable win over Sri Lanka in Galle. Seven years ago it was Shane Warne who ran through the Sri Lankans in the final innings; here it was Ryan Harris, whose five-wicket haul set up Australia's 125-run win.

The victory was notable for several reasons: as Australia's first Test win on the subcontinent since they visited Bangladesh in 2006, as Clarke's first Test triumph as leader, and as the 100th Test victory in which Ponting has played. Ponting's record is a remarkable one compared to some of his fellow veterans, including Mahela Jayawardene, who with 49 victories has had less than half the team success of Ponting.

Jayawardene was the man who created the most problems for Australia on the fourth day, with his 29th Test century giving Sri Lanka a sliver of hope that they might pull off what would have been a record chase of 379. He and Angelo Mathews combined for a 142-run stand, nearly three times as big as the next best partnership in the match, and showed Clarke that this captaincy caper isn't always smooth sailing.

But Harris broke the partnership by nipping a delivery off the seam and through the tiny gate left by Jayawardene; the ball clipped the inside edge and took his off stump. That was the moment Australia had been waiting for, and with Jayawardene gone for 105, they could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

The only remaining question was whether Mathews, whose highest Test score was 99, would go on to register his maiden century. In the end, as his tail-end partners dwindled away, he lost patience and on 95 tried to bring up triple figures with one shot, but with a swing as wild and woolly as some of the weather in Galle over the past few days, Mathews lost off stump to Shane Watson.

Fittingly, it was Australia's debutant offspinner Nathan Lyon who took the final wicket, having collected five in the first innings. The end came when Suranga Lakmal skied a catch to Johnson, who ran back from mid-on, and the Australians could officially celebrate their proudest moment since the disastrous Ashes campaign last summer.

It was a symbolic victory for the Australians, who had two new players in Lyon and Trent Copeland, a man in his second Test, Usman Khawaja, and a new leader with fresh ideas. It's too early to know whether Australia will climb back up the ICC Test rankings - they need to win the series to jump ahead of Sri Lanka - but at least the tour has started in the best possible way.

For Sri Lanka, there was enough resistance in the second innings for them to wonder what could have been. The difference between the two sides was Sri Lanka's first innings of 105, when too few of their batsmen showed the necessary application on a difficult surface. In the second innings, Jayawardene and Mathews proved that runs were available for those who worked hard.

They balanced solid defence, respecting the good balls, with a run-scoring mindset. Jayawardene lofted a six over long-on from the offspin of Lyon and improvised when possible, including a paddle over his shoulder for another boundary off the offspinner. When he brought up his hundred with a classic late cut, he pumped his fists in celebration; not many of his 29 Test hundreds had come in such trying circumstances.

At the other end, Mathews occasionally threatened to lose his nerve, as when he advanced to Lyon and tried to smash him over long-off, and was lucky that his miscue landed safely in no-man's-land at deep cover. But generally he provided excellent support and he brought up his half-century with a boundary pulled through midwicket off Mitchell Johnson.

The milestone came from his 89th delivery and it gave the selectors some vindication for including him as a specialist batsman, a decision that effectively ruled Ajantha Mendis out of the side. But Sri Lanka's problems were not created at the selection table, they were founded on poor batting from too many of the specialists, particularly in the first innings.

The captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, especially, should be disappointed with himself, as he failed to put a price on his wicket in both innings. In contrast, Australia's captain, Clarke, showed real grit to make 60 in the second innings, and it went a long way to winning the match.

The final day was difficult, but Australia won their hard-earned reward. Like Ponting, Clarke's captaincy career has started with a victory in Galle. Now it's up to Clarke to ensure that, like Ponting's Australians did in 2004, they go on to win the series.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RandyOZ on September 6, 2011, 1:19 GMT

    The only deserts in SL are in the centre of their cricket grounds. Very impressed by our performance. How good is it to see Harris fit and charging in? I think Mitch got a touch unlucky as he bowled well. Clarke finally stood up when it counted although AGAIN he didn't kick on enough. brad Haddin is on his last legs. Marsh, coming in averaging a hundred every 17 innings, will need to score highly to justify his place. I haven't seen him do anything useful. Would also like to see improvements frmo Hughes and Khawaja next test.

  • Samdanh on September 5, 2011, 10:41 GMT

    SL should get ready sporting pitches for the remaining Test matches to make this series well contested by both sides. Sporting pitches: Helps fast bowlers 60:40 first day. Helps batsmen 60:40 2nd and thrid day: helps bowlers and spiinners: 60:40 4th and 5th day. More often than not, you get this kind of pitches right through in England and Australia and to some extent in South Africa. Rest of the countries need to mature yet. Good scope for other countries to improve their approach and attitude

  • hyclass on September 5, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    The pitch was terrible.Batting was more than just a matter of application.It was also a matter of luck.Australia were fortunate to have Copeland in their line-up,who on a very slow pitch,was extremely hard to score from.Other bowlers were the beneficiaries on this occasion.The criticism levelled at Dilshans batting is unacceptable.Like Sehwag,people are happy to ride his highs.They should also be prepared to accept his lows.Ponting,Watson and Haddin,all experienced cricketers,took the same approach as Dilshan.In their views,survival was problematic at best and attack the preferred option.It failed for them also.As for his captaincy,people should be looking to those who appointed him and not to the man himself,who is behaving and playing as he always has.A great deal more good would accrue if due credit was given to those who succeeded and understanding given to those who failed on this pitch.The outcome was always a lottery and those who attacked,did so in good faith,not mindlessly.

  • DINESHCC on September 5, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    AUSIEBANGALEE: WITH JUST ONE WIN, AUS CANNOT BE A SUPERIOR SIDE. INDIA HAD ONE BAD SERIES WITH ENGLAND AND SL IS STRUGGLING AGAINST AUSTRALIA. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT BOTH TEAMS HAVE THE NATURE OF SPECTACULAR COLLAPSE IN EVERY MATCH. WHEN AUS LOST TO ENGLAND AND SA IN AUSTRALIA, YOU PEOPLE CRIED LIKE ANYTHING TO BRING BACK SHANE WARNE. BUT WE ARE NOT CRYING TO BRING BACK GANGULY, KAPIL DEV, ANIL KUMBLE, MURALI, SANATH, VASS, MALINGA ETC. ETC. UNLIKE AUS, INDIA AND SL NEVER HAD A BAD HOME SERIES. DHONI'S IS BLAMING UDRS, WHY, OUT OF 10 INNINGS, ENGLAND BOWLERS DISMISSED HIM 6 TIMES AND DRS (DRAVID REMOVAL SYSTEM) DISMISSED HIM 4 TIMES. ALMOST 50% OF THE VERIDICTS GIVEN BY DRS IS WRONG. THEN HOW ONE CAN SUPPORT DRS? FINALLY A TEAM WITHOUT ZAHEER, SEHWAG, GAMBHIR, HARBHAJAN SINGH, YUVRAJ SINGH (5 OUT OF 11 PLAYERS) IS A DEPLETED SIDE OR NOT?

  • AusieBangaleeShameem on September 5, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    BOTH INDIA AND SL TEAMS ARE VERY SIMILAR --- THERE COLLAPSE IS SPECTACULAR. THIS IS PROBABLY WHY THEY PLAY EACH OTHER MOST OF THE TIMES, SCORE BIG TOTAL ETC ETC. WHEN THEY PLAY AUSTRALIA, ENGLAND OR SA, THEIR WEAKNESSES EXPOSE --- FANS GET UPSET, MS DHONI TRIES TO BLAME UDRS, MAKING LAME EXCUSES. HOWEVER, THIS IS A GREAT GAME OF CRICKET, ALWAYS BEST 11 REPRESENT THEIR SIDE -- SO THERE MUST NOT BE ANY EXCUSE OF "DEPLETED SIDE" ETC. FEEL SORRY FOR BOTH INDIAN AND SL FANS!!!!

  • Meety on September 4, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    @Wozza-CY - great comments. I agree 100%. No comparisons to other sides doing well or not. SL fought hard in their 2nd innings, & had Oz in some trouble in both of our innings. Good win for Pup, there was a captains knock in there. == == == Expect SL to bounce back - I hope the result won't mean that pitches with life in it will be eliminated. Probably should have more of those pitches at 1st class level to let their batsmen adapt. That being said Mahela & Matthews adapted pretty well. Good to see Watto's bowling was crucial, contributed with the ball when struggling with the bat.

  • dummy4fb on September 4, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    ONLY AUSTRALIA PLAYED LIKE A CHAMPION.ONLY AUSTRALIA PLAYED LIKE A CHAMPION.

  • Test-is-the-best on September 4, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    Great idea Candid Indian, United_ Asia,Krickilover..Hats off for you all

  • United_Asia on September 4, 2011, 11:03 GMT

    It is so stupid that all the asian teams supporters are fighting like fools, stop fighting it dsnt benefit any1. The well being of asian cricket lies in its unity, just ask urself had murli picked up 800 wkts if sL hadn't received support 4m its asian peers during d times of chucking controversy, or wht would've happend to oval test btn eng & pak, or any team other team than srilanka was ready to visit pak few years ago, or wasn't it India who stayed in srilanka after the blast that ocurred during the triseries btwn Ind, SL & SA some years ago. Just a few examples to highlight dat we live in d same region and have common goals dat can be better served by being together, instead of abusing our teams we shld hope dat they do well. I am not saying that it should be Asians V ROW, but we should be united for the betterment of asian cricket and it is a fact of life, just look at European Union and than look at Asians still fighting.

  • krici_lover on September 4, 2011, 9:46 GMT

    Though, I am Indian fan, but would not like to react in a childish manner the way when many my Sl friends did when India lost of England. One needs to understand it is a game and no one can ever remain on top and cannot always win. I still remember comments from many SL fans, that SL managed to win 1 match while India lost all, so they are better. Now SL has lost first match to Aussie, where India white washed them at home. But I understand past performances have nothing to do with today. So chill-out Indian fans, don't make mockery of SL fans or cricket team.

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