Galle: Centuries from Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith put Australia in a strong position on the opening day of the second Test in Galle against Sri Lanka.
Australia fielded the same side as the first Test but Sri Lanka were forced to make four changes after a Covid outbreak in their camp.
All-rounder Kamindu Mendis and spin duo Prabath Jayasuriya and Maheesh Theekshana made their Test debuts for the hosts.
The hosts got off to a good start with Kasun Rajitha providing them with an early breakthrough when he knocked off David Warner’s off stump in the fifth over of the day. Pairing with Ramesh Mendis and debutant Prabath Jayasuriya, Rajitha kept the Australians in check with his probing line and length.
Mendis dismissed Usman Khawaja in the 22nd over just when the second-wicket partnership had started to grow. At 70/2, the match seemed evenly balanced.
With no demons in the pitch, it was only a matter of time before the Australia batters took back control of the game. Leading the way was Marnus Labuschagne, who did not take long after the lunch break to bring up a wonderful fifty. He accelerated upon reaching the milestone, racing towards triple figures.
The second session was completely dominated by the visitors and Steve Smith proved to be the perfect partner for Labuschagne’s antics. The latter brought up his fourth Test ton, his first outside of Australia with a gentle single to mid-wicket.
Niroshan Dickwella, who had missed a stumping chance to dismiss Labuschagne for 28 earlier in the day, made amends when he whipped off the bails of the advancing batter to give Prabath Jayasuriya his maiden Test wicket.
Labuschagne departed for 104 (156) with Australia going to tea at 204/3.
Labuschagne’s wicket did little to dampen Steve Smith’s spirits as the veteran batter dropped in anchor. Little troubled the experienced batter as he kept Australia in control. Two brief partnerships with Travis Head and Cameron Green followed but with Smith in the picture, Sri Lanka could not wrest back control of the game.
The Australia batter’s patience was rewarded when he brought up his 28th Test hundred with a crunching cover drive in the final hour of the day. It was a long wait for the talented player, who last reached triple figures in January 2021.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, Smith and Alex Carey batted with great patience to ensure more wickets don’t fall and took Australia to stumps at 298/5. The visitors will be looking at the 400-run mark in the first innings, a total that would take some effort to take down by Sri Lanka.