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Herath Bowls Sri Lanka To His­toric White­wash

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Sri Lanka 355 (Chandi­mal 132, de Silva 129, Starc 5-63, Lyon 3-110) and 347 for 8 dec (Silva 115, de Silva 65*, Lyon 4-123) beat Aus­tralia 379 (S Marsh 130, Smith 119, M Marsh 53, Herath 6-81) and 160 (Warner 68, Herath 7-64) by 163 runs

Colombo: His­tory was against this Sri Lanka team, so they cre­ated their own. Be­fore this se­ries, Sri Lanka had beaten Aus­tralia just once - one sin­gle Test in 33 years of cricket be­tween the na­tions. Ku­mar San­gakkara, per­haps the finest bats­man Sri Lanka has ever pro­duced, played 134 Tests and never tasted vic­tory against Aus­tralia. Dhanan­jaya de Silva and Lak­shan San­dakan, un­capped a month ago, have now played in three. So too has Ran­gana Herath, whose grey-tinged hair and cud­dly build can trick you into think­ing he was born 38-years-old. But he was young once. At 21, he sat in the rooms in Kandy and watched his squad­mates beat Aus­tralia in 1999, the only pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sion on which they had man­aged the feat. Herath had to wait un­til the next Test in the se­ries to make his de­but. Seven­teen years later, he has been part of white­wash­ing Aus­tralia.

A sig­nif­i­cant part, in fact, for Herath fin­ished the se­ries as the lead­ing wicket taker, with 28 at 12.75. And never was he more dev­as­tat­ing than the fi­nal day of the fi­nal Test, when he col­lected 7 for 64 to bowl Sri Lanka to their tri­umph. Set 324 for vic­tory, Aus­tralia briefly dreamed of a con­so­la­tion win while David Warner was mov­ing briskly to 68. But once he de­parted the ca­pit­u­la­tion came quickly, Aus­tralia bowled out for 160, de­feated by 163 runs.

Com­plete hu­mil­i­a­tion

Make no mis­take: this se­ries was a com­plete hu­mil­i­a­tion for Aus­tralia. They ar­rived in Sri Lanka as the No.1 team in the world, con­fi­dent of over­com­ing No.7. Apart from the first day of the se­ries, when they skit­tled Sri Lanka for 117, Aus­tralia were rarely in with a chance. The No.1 rank­ing is not only gone, but Aus­tralia have slipped to third, be­hind In­dia and Pak­istan, while Sri Lanka have moved up to sixth. Aus­tralia’s loss in Colombo was their ninth con­sec­u­tive Test de­feat in Asia, a record that au­gurs ex­cep­tion­ally poorly for their four-Test tour of In­dia early next year.

Starc bril­liant

Mitchell Starc was bril­liant, fin­ish­ing with 24 wick­ets and the best strik­er­ate of any bowler ever to take 20 wick­ets in a Test se­ries in Asia. But the bat­ting was de­plorable. Only twice in the past hun­dred years have Aus­tralia’s bats­men col­lec­tively av­er­aged so few runs in a se­ries of three or more Tests as the 19.86 they av­er­aged in this se­ries. There were good ex­cuses on the other oc­ca­sions: in 197879 Aus­tralia were rav­aged by World Se­ries Cricket, and in Eng­land in 1956, Jim Laker was un­playable on un­cov­ered pitches pre­pared to suit him. Here there were no such ex­cuses. The pitches turned but were per­fectly de­cent. Sri Lanka’s bat­ting was in­con­sis­tent and they gave Aus­tralia’s bowlers open­ings, but al­ways there was some­one to step up and res­cue the in­nings: Kusal Mendis in Pallekele and Galle, Di­nesh Chandi­mal and de Silva in the first in­nings in Colombo and Kaushal Silva in the sec­ond. Sri Lanka’s spin­ners used the con­di­tions well, Aus­tralia’s bats­men were of­ten in­com­pe­tent.

But that is for Aus­tralia’s man­age­ment to as­sess in their post-mortems. Now is the time to cel­e­brate Sri Lanka’s achieve­ment. Only three times pre­vi­ously had they white­washed any team in a three-match se­ries - Zim­babwe once, Bangladesh once and West Indies once. Surely none of those tri­umphs can match the feat not only of crush­ing the No.1 team, but do­ing so with a de­vel­op­ing squad, so soon af­ter the re­tire­ments of cham­pi­ons such as San­gakkara and Ma­hela Jayawar­dene.

New Faces

That is why it was so sat­is­fy­ing for Sri Lanka that con­tri­bu­tions came from newer faces. De Silva, who de­buted in Pallekele, led the se­ries run tally with 325 at 65.00. Mendis, with only one first-class cen­tury be­fore this cam­paign, played the in­nings that ef­fec­tively de­ter­mined the course of the se­ries. San­dakan, though rarely needed be­cause the finger-spin­ners bowled so well, took nine wick­ets at 23.00. He wasn’t even needed on the fi­nal day, such was the an­ni­hi­la­tion brought on by Herath, with as­sis­tance from Dil­ruwan Per­era. When the Test fin­ished with half an hour still to play un­til tea, it was re­mark­able to think that Sri Lanka were still bat­ting when the morn­ing be­gan. An­gelo Mathews al­lowed his men nearly five overs to bump the tar­get up to 324, which re­quired Aus­tralia to make their high­est ever fourth-in­nings to­tal in Asia. Briefly they had hoped, as Warner played his nat­u­rally at­tack­ing game and com­piled a 77-run open­ing stand with Shaun Marsh. But once that part­ner­ship was bro­ken on the brink of lunch, when Marsh was bril­liantly caught at short leg by Mendis off Per­era, the last nine wick­ets tum­bled for less than a hun­dred runs. In fact, from the mo­ment Steven Smith was bowled try­ing to cut Herath, Aus­tralia lost nine for 60 in 18 overs.

Com­plete Ca­pit­u­la­tion

It was a com­plete ca­pit­u­la­tion. Herath straight­ened one just enough to trap Adam Vo­ges lbw for 1. Warner was bowled around his legs of­fer­ing no shot to Per­era for 68. Moises Hen­riques, brought in for this match at the ex­pense of Us­man Khawaja, added 4 more to the 4 he scored in the first in­nings, never look­ing com­fort­able against the spin­ners. He was run out when he ad­vanced to Per­era, the ball flew off his pad to Mathews at slip, and the cap­tain threw down the stumps.

Af­ter that it was all Herath. Mitchell Marsh was caught be­hind off a beau­ti­ful turn­ing de­liv­ery. Peter Nevill top-edged a sweep and was taken at slip. Starc too skied an at­tempted slog sweep and the keeper Kusal Per­era took a fine run­ning catch. Then Josh Ha­zle­wood was lured just out of his crease and stumped, and Nathan Lyon was lbw sweep­ing to end the match. Herath was mobbed by his team-mates. Aus­tralia were his­tory, and Sri Lanka had cre­ated it.

Photo: AP

De­stroyer: Sri Lanka’s Ran­gana Herath cel­e­brates tak­ing an­other wicket.

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