2nd Test

Australia v Sri Lanka, 2012-13

Geoffrey Dean

At Melbourne, December 26-28, 2012. Australia won by an innings and 201 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: J. M. Bird.


Mitchell Johnson was the most successful of the Australia bowlers, with four wickets, Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 1st day, December 26, 2012
Mitchell Johnson's four wickets floored Sri Lanka on the first morning © Getty Images
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It may have been Boxing Day nerves. It may have been a feeling of foreboding on their return, 17 years to the day, to the ground where Muttiah Muralitharan was famously no-balled by Darrell Hair. It may also have been lingering disappointment at losing the First Test on the final evening. Whatever the reason, Sri Lanka's opening-day performance was so abject it ended the series in the space of a few hours, setting them on the path to the third-heaviest defeat in their history.

Australia's dramatically recast attack could scarcely believe their good fortune at a string of wrong-headed strokes on a pitch offering bounce but no great lateral movement. The result was further soured for Sri Lanka by injuries that ended the tours of wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene, left-arm seamer Welagedara and, most critically, Sangakkara, the only batsman to make a fight of it on Boxing Day.

Mahela Jayawardene had made a sound enough call at the toss, batting first against opponents who had lost Ben Hilfenhaus to injury and Mitchell Starc to injury-prevention. In their places came the Tasmania debutant Jackson Bird and the recalled Johnson, who carried out their commissions handsomely. Well though Australia bowled, the only blameless Sri Lankan batsman was the first out - the left-hander Karunaratne, who was first cornered by Bird's swing into him, then edged a nicely pitched cutter going across. The rest were guilty of anything from looseness outside off stump (Mahela Jayawardene and Mathews), to hare-brained swats at deliveries that required greater respect (Dilshan and Samaraweera).

Sangakkara alone fought the tide, punching some admirable drives down the ground off Johnson, and raised his bat to a crowd of 67,138 when he became the second Sri Lankan, after Mahela Jayawardene, and the 11th in all, to pass 10,000 Test runs; like Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar before him, he got there in his 195th innings (no one has done it more quickly). But he could only look on as Johnson broke Prasanna Jayawardene's thumb with a snorter that was pouched in the slips, then bounced out Prasad next ball. Sangakkara was soon to follow, when he miscued a hook, and Wade sprinted from behind the stumps to dive near the boundary and claim a rousing catch.

By tea, Australia were batting. Warner was soon taking advantage of the absence of the tidy Nuwan Kulasekara, unfit owing to a rib not merely tickled but cracked by Siddle at Hobart: in little more than an hour, Warner had hurried Australia into a dominant position. He miscalculated at 62, pulling Mathews into the deep, before Hughes was wastefully run out, and Cowan - perhaps still distracted by his part in Hughes's demise six balls earlier - nicked to slip. But then Watson and Clarke settled in. Helped by a couple of difficult dropped chances on the first evening, they were not parted until they had added 194.

Clarke, who had shrugged off a hamstring niggle to play, reached his fifth century of 2012 - though unlike the other four, this one did not become a double or triple. Watson again fell short of three figures, but it later emerged he had batted with a calf strain suffered while bowling. Johnson ensured a lead of over 300 with a measured innings against a team wounded further by the loss of Welagedara to a hamstring tear, and missed out on a chance of a second Test century only because Bird demonstrated a modesty with the bat to rival Glenn McGrath.

Batting again on the third morning, Sri Lanka were all but ruined inside the first over. From the third ball, Karunaratne saw two runs where Dilshan glimpsed only one, and was wretchedly run out. Johnson's next delivery leapt at Dilshan and lobbed off glove and thigh to short leg. Mahela Jayawardene and Samaraweera were undone by Bird's immaculate line and seam movement, and Sri Lankan misery was complete when Johnson whirred down a ball that fractured Sangakkara's left hand so badly it would require surgery.

A casualty ward of three meant the match concluded when the seventh wicket fell. Only once before, when five Indians were absent hurt in Jamaica in 1975-76, had a Test innings ended with fewer wickets down. Technically, it was Sri Lanka's shortest completed innings, beating by two balls the 24.4 overs they had lasted at Cardiff in 2011. "It feels like the worst Test match I've been involved in," said their coach Graham Ford. Much like England's mauling of Australia here two years earlier, the knockout blow had been landed on Boxing Day.

Man of the Match: M.G. Johnson.

Close of play: First day, Australia 150-3 (Watson 13, Clarke 20); second day, Australia 440-8 (Johnson 73, Lyon 0).

© John Wisden & Co.