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Revisiting Sri Lanka's Test travails in Australia

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Australia_Sri_Lanka_Test_CricketSri Lanka’s quest to succeed in Australia received a severe jolt last week, as they ended up losing the opening Test at Brisbane by an innings and 40 runs. This defeat added to the Lions’ lacklustre record in Australia, where they are yet to win a Test – they have now played 14 Tests in the country, of which they have lost 12. As we hope for a more competitive second Test at Canberra, here is a look back in time at Sri Lanka’s past encounters in whites on Australian soil.

A hiding to begin with (1987-88)

Sri Lanka’s first Test against Australia, at Kandy in 1982-83, ended in defeat by an innings and 38 runs. Five years later, they made their first Test appearance in Australia under the captaincy of Ranjan Madugalle – a one-off match at the WACA in Perth – and the margin was even bigger. Dean Jones’ 102 powered Australia to 455, after which Sri Lanka were skittled out for 194 and 153. The left-handed Arjuna Ranatunga top-scored in both the innings, with knocks of 55 and 45.

De Silva dazzles in defeat (1989-90)

Ranatunga was captain by now, and he decided to insert the hosts in the first Test at Brisbane. Australia lost their openers with only 27 on the board, before Tom Moody (106) revived the innings, which eventually ended at 367. Fast bowler Graeme Labrooy bowled with purpose to collect 5/133. Sri Lanka’s gutsy reply revolved around a brilliant 167 from Aravinda de Silva, whose seventh-wicket stand of 144 with an injured Ravi Ratnayeke (56) spurred the total to 418.

The match petered out to a draw after Mark Taylor’s 164 took Australia to 375/6 in the second innings, ensuring that the second Test, the first to be played at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval, would be a decider. Rumesh Ratnayeke’s seam bowling fetched him an excellent 6/66 as Australia were bowled out for 224 on the first day after being put in to bat again. Despite a fourth-wicket stand of 128 between Roshan Mahanama (85) and de Silva (75), Sri Lanka conceded an eight-run lead.

The second-innings shootout saw Australia recover from 77/3 to post 513/5, thanks to Taylor (108), Jones (118*) and Steve Waugh (134*). Jones and Waugh shared in a stand of 260*, helping Australia set an improbable 522. Buoyed by de Silva (72) and Ravi Ratnayeke (75), Sri Lanka were pushing for a draw at 332/6. But the last four wickets fell for just 16, giving Australia a 173-run win. De Silva was the series’ highest run-scorer with a tally of 314 at 104.66.

Controversy overshadows Australia’s sweep (1995-96)

Sri Lanka’s first three-Test series in Australia made headlines for the controversy it created rather than the performances. Sri Lanka were outplayed in all matches, beginning with an innings defeat at Perth, where they were bowled out for 251 and 330 either side of an Australian total of 617/5. Michael Slater smashed 219, and was well aided by captain Taylor (96), Mark Waugh (111) and debutant Ricky Ponting (96). Hashan Tillekaratne hit 119 in Sri Lanka’s second dig.

As if ball-tampering charges against the Sri Lankans at Perth were not enough, the first day (Boxing Day) at Melbourne saw the no-balling of Muttiah Muralitharan by umpire Darrell Hair. Convinced of an illegal action, Hair called the off-spinner seven times in three overs. Served by David Boon (110) and Steve Waugh (131*), Australia reached 500/6 before limiting Sri Lanka to 233 (Glenn McGrath 5/40) and 307 (Asanka Gurusinha 143) en route to a facile ten-wicket win.

Muralitharan’s tour had ended between the second and third Tests, after he was no-balled again, this time in an ODI. The visitors’ bowling came a cropper at Adelaide as well, as Steve Waugh’s 170 swelled Australia’s total to 502/9, which duly yielded a lead of 187. Sri Lanka were set 401 to win, and though Sanath Jayasuriya’s 112 gave them something to cheer about, they lost their last eight wickets for 57 to go down by 148 runs. This Test was notable for being Boon’s last.

An off-season affair (2004)

Just four months after being blanked 3-0 by Australia at home, Sri Lanka travelled down under for a return two-Test series in the Top End in the winter month of July. Interestingly, Muralitharan opted out of the tour citing personal reasons. Sri Lanka started on a positive note in the first Test at Darwin, as left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas bagged 5/31 to help bowl Australia out for 207. However, they crashed to a meagre 97 in reply, courtesy of a return of 5/37 by McGrath.

With the opportunity lost, Sri Lanka were ultimately beaten by 149 runs after being bowled out for 162 in the second attempt. The star with the ball this time was Michael Kasprowicz (7/39). The pitch for the second Test at the Cairns was a lot better for batting, and Australia’s openers Justin Langer (162) and Matthew Hayden (117) made hay with a partnership of 255 that laid the base for a total of 517. Sri Lanka responded with 455, with captain Marvan Atapattu scoring 133.

Australia declared their second innings at 292/9 before lunch on the final day, with Matthew Hayden (132) scoring another hundred. Leg-spinning all-rounder Upul Chandana followed up his 5/109 in the first innings with 5/101, thus becoming the first (and till date, only) Sri Lankan to take ten wickets in a Test in Australia. The match was drawn after Sri Lanka survived a scare to end at 183/8 in their chase of 355. This was Sri Lankan fast bowler Nuwan Zoysa’s last Test.

Sangakkara shines, but in vain (2007-08)

This was the first series played for the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy. In a familiar occurrence, Australia romped to a big win after amassing a hefty total. Phil Jaques (100) set the tone at Brisbane, before a 245-run fourth-wicket stand by Michael Hussey (133) and Michael Clarke (145*) boosted the total to 551/4. Sri Lanka could only muster 211 and 300 in reply. The story was similar at Hobart – Jaques (150) and Hussey (132) starred again as Australia totalled 542/4.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene scored a fluent 104, but Sri Lanka subsided to a feeble 246. Australia batted again before setting a target of 507 with over five sessions left. Sri Lanka made a valiant attempt, with the cornerstone being a fine 192 from the stylish Kumar Sangakkara, who had missed the first Test due to injury. The left-hander looked good for a double century, but was erroneously adjudged out caught in the slips. Australia sealed the series with a 96-run win soon after.

More disappointment for Sri Lanka (2012-13)

Michael Hussey (115*) propelled Australia to 450/5 at Hobart, after which Sri Lanka wobbled to 87/4. Tillekaratne Dilshan stroked 147 as opener, but Peter Siddle (5/54) ensured a lead of 114 for Australia. Though Rangana Herath returned a haul of 5/95, Sri Lanka required a steep 393 to win. They entered the last session of the match with six wickets in hand, but Mitchell Starc (5/63) and Siddle (4/50) combined to complete a 137-run win for Australia with 10.4 overs left.

Having missed a chance to draw at Hobart, Sri Lanka abjectly slid to defeat by a whopping innings and 201 runs at Melbourne, as they were bundled out for just 156 and 103. Australia scored 460 in between, with captain Michael Clarke hitting 106. A whitewash was very much on the cards as the teams arrived in Sydney, and so it proved, as Australia put up 432/9 (Matthew Wade 102*) in reply to Sri Lanka’s 294, before overhauling a modest 141 to win by five wickets.



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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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