Perera bowls Sri Lanka to series triumph
Sri Lanka wrapped up a series win over Australia on the third day in Galle, where they completed a 229-run win in the second Test
Sri Lanka 281 (Mendis 86, Mathews 54, Starc 5-44) and 237 (D Perera 64, Starc 6-50) beat Australia 106 (Warner 42, D Perera 4-29, Herath 4-35) and 183 (Warner 41, D Perera 6-70) by 229 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Remember the way this series began? Angelo Mathews won the toss and chose to bat in Pallekele, and his men were bundled out for 117. They failed even to survive 35 overs. Eight days of cricket later, the series has been decided, and one of these two teams has been completely humiliated. And it's not Sri Lanka. What a turnaround it has been. Mathews will lift the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, and Sri Lanka could hardly have won it more comprehensively.
In Pallekele, rain and bad light conspired to drag the first Test into its fifth day, but in Galle Australia could not even reach the scheduled halfway point of the match. In less than two and a half days, they had lost an eighth consecutive Test in Asia. The No.1 team in the world had been beaten - crushed, in fact - by No.7. Sri Lanka's spinners have embarrassed Australia's batsmen this series, and in Galle it was Dilruwan Perera who starred.
Perera picked up 6 for 70 in Australia's second innings of 183 and became the first Sri Lankan to take 10 wickets and score a half-century in the same Test. Only 25 times in all of Test history has a player achieved that remarkable feat. Along the way, he also became the fastest Sri Lankan to reach the mark of 50 Test wickets, reaching the milestone in this his 11th Test. Perera and Rangana Herath proved unreadable to the Australians, their sliders as dangerous as their spinners.
The statistics of note did not end there. Only once in the past 87 years had Australia survived for fewer balls in a Test match they had lost: in Galle they lasted for 501 deliveries across the match, two more than the 499 they faced against West Indies in Port-of-Spain in 1995. It was thus their second-worst performance in that regard since the advent of covered pitches. And for the first time in 19 years, no Australian scored a fifty in a Test.
The Sri Lankans were understandably jubilant when the result was confirmed, the final wicket coming from a brilliant run-out effected by Kusal Mendis at bat-pad. Peter Nevill, who had fought off the inevitable for 38 balls, flicked Herath off his pads and took a couple of steps out of his crease, but with remarkable reflexes Mendis managed to get the ball back onto the stumps to find Nevill short.
It meant a 229-run win for Sri Lanka and an unassailable 2-0 series lead heading into the third and final Test in Colombo. The result was effectively certain when both teams arrived at the ground on the third morning, the only questions being the margin and the time that Sri Lanka would take to run through Australia's final seven wickets. Australia started the day at 25 for 3, and before drinks in the second session they were bowled out for 183.
David Warner was the first to depart, lbw to Perera when he missed a ball that failed to turn as he expected. Given out on field, Warner asked for a review but received no satisfaction, with replays showing the ball would have hit the leg stump. Steven Smith then departed on 30, caught at bat-pad off Perera, a not-out decision on-field overturned on review.
It has been a match full of referrals, and Mathews has proven himself a five-star reviewer. Perhaps his best came when Richard Kettleborough turned down an appeal for lbw against Mitchell Marsh, who thrust his pad well outside off against Lakshan Sandakan. Marsh was not playing a shot, so being struck outside the line did not matter, and Sandakan's big turn was enough to have the ball hitting the stumps.
Marsh was out for 18, and the last of Australia's specialist batsmen followed not far behind. Adam Voges had employed the reverse sweep liberally throughout his innings, without ever quite looking like he had it perfected, and on 28 the shot brought him undone when he failed to get bat on ball and was bowled by Perera. Sri Lanka were three wickets from triumph at lunch.
After the break, it was only a matter of time. Mitchell Starc whacked a six and three fours before he was bowled by Herath trying another big shot, and Josh Hazlewood prodded a return catch to Perera to complete the spinner's ten-wicket game. Then came the run-out, the celebrations, the glory. Sri Lanka had done it. A new generation had not only won the series but dominated it. And who'd have guessed that after day one in Pallekele?
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale