Sri Lanka 294 (Thirimanne 91, Jayawardene 72, Bird 4-41, Starc 3-71) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Six days ago, while the Sri Lankans were capitulating to lose the Boxing Day Test, Lahiru Thirimanne was back home in Sri Lanka enjoying a day off in between one-day commitments for Ragama. He must have been as surprised as anyone to find himself batting on the opening day of a Test match at the SCG less than a week later. Thirimanne acclimatised to his new role quickly and although he narrowly missed out on a maiden Test century, he ensured Sri Lanka were able to bat until stumps. Just.
At the close of play, the Sri Lankans had just been dismissed for 294. It could have been better had Thirimanne or Mahela Jayawardene, who both made half-centuries, gone on to triple figures. But it could also have been much worse after the Sri Lankans were sent in by Michael Clarke, who had chosen four fast bowlers on a pitch tinged with green grass. Jackson Bird finished with 4 for 41 and Mitchell Starc bounced back from his rest over the Christmas period with 3 for 71, and while it took until nearly 6pm, Clarke would have been pleased to end the day with the Sri Lankans all out.
For a while, that appeared unlikely as Thirimanne and Jayawardene steered Sri Lanka to 2 for 134, and later the score was 4 for 222. But once Australia's bowlers found their way into the tail, the end came quickly. The final five wickets fell for 44 and a briefly entertaining last-wicket stand of 21 between Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep had the unexpected benefit for Australia of allowing Ed Cowan and David Warner to start their innings on the second morning instead of late on the first evening.
Pradeep finished on 17 not out, his highest first-class score, and Lakmal was the last man out when he edged to slip for 5 off the bowling of Bird. It was the third catch of the day for the retiring Michael Hussey, who also put one down early in Jayawardene's innings. Bird had also picked up the wicket of Rangana Herath, who skied a catch to mid-off for 5, shortly after the last of the recognised batsmen, Dinesh Chandimal, was superbly yorked by Starc for 24.
Starc had been involved in the previous wicket as well, when he took a diving catch at mid-on to get rid of Dhammika Prasad, whose heaving pull off Peter Siddle was a shot deserving of a dismissal. Another fine catch had brought Prasad to the crease, when Thirimanne, on 91, was deceived by Nathan Lyon. Thirimanne drove hard at a ball that was wider than he expected, and his edge lobbed up towards point and was brilliantly taken by a diving David Warner.
It was a disappointing end for Thirimanne, who was initially scratchy and struggled to rotate the strike, but found his touch as the innings wore on. Thirimanne would not have played this match but for Sri Lanka suffering two injuries to their top seven. Chandimal, the backup batsman in the squad, came in for Kumar Sangakkara and when Prasanna Jayawardene was also ruled out due to his broken thumb, it allowed Thirimanne to play his eighth Test.
He was impressive in his 151-ball innings and scored 13 fours and one six. He drove with authority and used his feet to Lyon, also pulling strongly against the fast bowling. Thirimanne had been fortunate to make it that far; he was given out lbw for a golden duck when Bird bowled full and straight, but after some consideration Thirimanne asked for a review and was reprieved as replays indicated the ball had pitched a fraction outside leg stump.
Jaywardene also had a lucky break early. On 4, he edged Siddle to second slip and Hussey was slow to react to a chance he should have taken, and managed only to get his left hand to the ball, which then ran away to the boundary. It was a very similar shot that brought Jayawardene his half-century, another edge that this time bounced just in front of Hussey before running to third man for four. It ended a three-year drought for Jayawardene, who had last made a Test fifty away from home in November 2009.
He was fluent in his 110-ball innings, which featured 12 fours and a six. He was strong through point and when flicking through the leg side, and he also used his feet Lyon. However, on 72 Jayawardene was caught at slip driving hard at a Starc delivery angled across him and after the third umpire checked for a no-ball and found Starc's heel had landed legally and then slid forward, it was the end of an encouraging 62-run stand for Sri Lanka.
Thilan Samaraweera (12) and Angelo Mathews (15) both made starts but failed to go on; Samaraweera was plumb lbw to Siddle and Mathews edged Starc to Hussey at second slip. It was a busy day in the field for Hussey, who had brought about the first wicket of the day when Dimuth Karunaratne (5) went for a pull from just outside off stump and top-edged Bird high and over the slips cordon and was taken by Hussey, running back with the flight of the ball from second slip.
Bird, the best of Australia's bowlers, also got rid of Karunaratne's opening partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan, who occupied the crease for 100 minutes before he was caught behind for 34. They were the only two wickets the Australians picked up in the first session, but by stumps the bowlers had done what Clarke wanted. Now, it's up to Australia's shortened batting line-up.