Mitchell Starc has answered his critics with a five-wicket haul and Usman Khawaja looks to have retained his Ashes spot with a century for Australia who have set Sri Lanka a target of 516 runs to win the second Test.
With both under fire heading into Sunday in Canberra, Starc claimed 5-54 to help to roll Sri Lanka for 215, before Khawaja hit his first ton of the home Test summer to be 101 not out when Tim Paine declared at 196-3 in Australia’s second innings.
Sri Lanka were 17-0 in reply when bad light ended play on day three.
In his last Test innings before the Ashes, Khawaja combined with Travis Head (59no) for a 159-run fourth-wicket stand after the hosts had earlier fallen to 37-3.
Joe Burns (9) nicked Kasun Rajitha and Marcus Harris (14) and Marnus Labuschagne (4) edged off early to Vishwa Fernando, before Khawaja finally looked back to somewhere near his best for most of his typically stylish knock.
Watchful for his first 30 runs, Khawaja hit his last 71 off 73 balls as Australia upped the ante and the left-hander was dangerous all around the ground and particularly on the cover drive.
It came after a dramatic morning at Manuka Oval where Kusal Perera was twice struck by Jhye Richardson on the helmet and became the second Sri Lankan to retire hurt in the innings.
Play was stopped for several minutes while his broken helmet was replaced after the second blow. He was assessed again at the end of the over by Sri Lankan medical staff.
Perera batted on but left the field retired hurt just three balls later on 29 and did not return.
He was replaced by Dimuth Karunaratne – who was only released on Saturday night from Canberra Hospital after an ugly blow to the neck from a Pat Cummins bouncer on day two – but by then, all of Sri Lanka’s momentum was gone.
Fresh from picking up the dangerous Dinesh Chandimal late on day two, Starc unleashed a spell of pace bowling that was full of bounce.
He first dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva for 25, the Sri Lankan batsman hitting his wicket after attempting to pull a short ball but only succeeded in collecting his own stumps with his bat as he swung around.
Starc’s removal of opener Karunaratne for 59 was far more straight forward, as he had him edging a ball well outside off stump to Kurtis Patterson at gully on the drive.
The left-armer had Dilruwan Perera (10) caught behind and clean bowled Fernando to bag his 10th career five-wicket haul and fifth against Sri Lanka. (Courtesy The Guardian)