Canberra beat down sees Starc and Khawaja storm back into form

After a disappointing series against India, Australia have taken the opportunity to use a touring Sri Lankan team as a huge slumpbuster. After not scoring a century in Test cricket all summer Aussie batsmen have hit four in one match down in Canberra, while out of form fast bowler Mitchell Starc took five-for in both of the visitor’s innings as Australia won by 366 runs.

Australia won the first match of the two Test series in Brisbane by an innings, however Australia – who built up a decent first-innings total – did not score any centuries. Rather it was the bowling attack – which saw Pat Cummins take 10 wickets – that shone, and even then Starc failed to capitalise on very helpful conditions.

In Canberra it was a different story. Australia won the toss and elected to bat, which gave batsmen a prime chance to test themselves against a swinging ball on a seaming pitch. At 3-28, this decision was starting to look a bit questionable after Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja (who has the dubious honour of the first ever duck at Manuka Oval) got out by swinging at balls they should have left, and Marnus Labuschagne fell to a pearler.

However, after this Travis Head and Joe Burns (the surviving opener) combined for a 308 run partnership for the fourth wicket, with Burns and then Head becoming the first two century makers in Canberra. They were followed by Kurtis Patterson for the third, who remained not-out along with captain Tim Paine when Paine declared for 534.

Sri Lanka started off well, however they were unable to match the Australians and go on for big scores.  Mitchell Starc took the opportunity to cash in after a very lean summer with the ball, taking five for 54, while Cummins and Nathan Lyon impressed with their economy. Even Labuschagne got in on the action, taking a wicket and bowling a maiden in his 2 over spell to rest the quicks.

After Sri Lanka got to 215 Australia had the option to enforce the follow-on, but they declined – largely, it seems, to give the batsmen another opportunity to pile on the runs. While Harris and Labuschagne again failed with the bat (along with Burns), Khawaja took his last chance of the summer to cement his spot, scoring a strong century with Head again supporting him ably.

Paine seemed to be waiting for Khawaja to hit the hundred mark, as he declared with Australia’s number 3 on 101 runs (Head reached 59). Sri Lanka were set a target of 516 for victory and given 2 days and 5 overs for the chase.

The fast bowlers again dominated the Sri Lankan batsmen, with Starc starring once again, taking four of Sri Lanka’s top 6 batsmen. An in-form Mitchell Starc is the scariest bowler in world cricket, and to see him regaining his mojo in the lead up to the One Day World Cup and Ashes series is a welcome sight for Australia.

With Starc tearing through the top order (with a bit of help from Labuschagne and Cummins) it was left to fellow quicks Jhye Richardson and Cummins to clean up the tail – although he chimed in again at the end to claim his second five-for of the match. This Test

Cummins deserves a mention for his efforts – despite a lower return than Starc he was Australia’s most economical bowler, and took a stunning catch off his own bowling to dismiss Sri Lankan opener Lahiru Thirimanne after he had seen off the new ball and looked like going big.

Christian Woods
Christian Woods
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.
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