Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Australia 323 all out (Head 84, Labuschagne 81, Lakmal 5-75) beat Sri Lanka 144 and 139 all out (Thirimanne 32, Cummins 6-23) by an innings and 40 runs
Sri Lanka's batting failed abysmally for the second time in the match, as they crashed to 139 all out, to lose the first Test against Australia in roughly two-and-a-half days.
It was the quick and intense Pat Cummins who precipitated Sri Lanka's collapse, and Cummins who made the greatest impact for Australia through the match. His 6 for 23 in the second innings are his best innings figures, and his 10 for 62 in the match is also a career-best. So outstanding was he late on day two and in day three, that Sri Lanka did not muster a single boundary off his 15 overs, in the second innings. He also essentially sealed the match by removing Sri Lanka's three key batsmen.
The result provides relief for a beleaguered Australia side, following India's series victory earlier in the month, while for Sri Lanka, it will feel like another dreary chapter in what is becoming a shocking summer in the southern hemisphere. Not only have they picked up their worst Test result in over a year at the Gabba, they also sustained a series-ending injury to their fastest bowler, Lahiru Kumara, who is now also in doubt for the Tests in South Africa next month.
Although Sri Lanka's batting had generally been serviceable in New Zealand, the top order has also ended this Test without an innings of significance across both innings. Only wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella mustered a little fight. He hit 24 off 29 in this innings, having made Sri Lanka's only half-century in the first dig. Incredibly, Dickwella was the only batsman in Sri Lanka's top eight to hit a boundary on day three.
Cummins' charge began in the opening overs of the day, and he would essentially define this innings in his first spell. His second ball on day three dismissed Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, who could not defuse the steepling bounce Cummins generated off a length, and sent the ball off the shoulder of his bat to gully, where Kurtis Patterson completed a comfortable overhead catch. Counting his wicket off the last ball on Friday, Cummins had now dismissed Sri Lanka's two most-experienced batsmen in the space of three balls, and he would soon claim the third key wicket as well. Pitching one up to Kusal Mendis, Cummins enticed an off drive, moved the ball away, and had Mendis caught at slip for 1. Sri Lanka had slipped from 17 for no loss late on day two, to 19 for 3, within the space of a few overs.
His third wicket of the morning - and fourth overall - took a little longer to come. Lahiru Thirimanne was dogged, if not quite resolute, and for a while it appeared as if Roshen Silva would join Thirimanne in a long resistance, as they both largely sought only to play the balls headed for the stumps. In his sixth consecutive over, however, Cummins succeeded in drawing another loose drive, this time from Silva. Having raised a big lbw appeal two balls earlier, Cummins had Silva nicking off to second slip, where Joe Burns took his second catch of the morning.
Wickets five and six for Cummins came in the twilight session. The caught-behind dismissal of Lahiru Thirimanne was slightly controversial. Cummins and the entire Australia slip cordon appealed voraciously when Thirimanne pushed at an away-seaming delivery. The batsman was given out by standing umpire Marais Erasmus, before the batsman chose to review that call, after chatting to the non-striker. Hotspot showed no evidence of an edge, but a slight spime in real-time snicko, seemingly a frame after the ball had passed bat, was deemed to be enough evidence to stay with the on-field decision. Sri Lanka, in any case, were going nowhere fast, with Thirimanne having limped to 32 off 98 balls, earlier overturning an lbw decision against him off Nathan Lyon.
Cummins' final wicket was the result of a spectacular catch by debutant Patterson in the gully. Dilruwan Perera attempted to carve a full Cummins balls square, but although the ball seemed to already have beaten an airborne Patterson, he flung his right arm out to reel it in.
In between Cummins' excellent spells, Jhye Richardson bowled a leaden-footed Dhananjaya de Silva in the ten minutes before tea, and later had Dickwella caught at backward square leg. Nathan Lyon also picked up the final wicket of Suranga Lakmal, which means that Mitchell Starc was the only Australia bowler to go wicketless in the innings, extending his modest streak.
So hot was Cummins, and so poor were Sri Lanka, however, that Starc having a slightly off-colour day did not prevent an outstanding result for Australia.
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