There was plenty going Australia’s way on Thursday, 24 January, in Brisbane, but it is Jhye Richardson’s fine debut that will please them the most.
Australia ended the day at 72/2, trailing Sri Lanka by just 72. That was largely down to Richardson, who returned a fine 3/26 in 14 overs – he was by far the most economical bowler at 1.85.
With Pat Cummins returning 4/39, Australia bundled out the visitors for just 144 after they opted to bat in the pink-ball Test. Then, the young Marcus Harris impressed in the final session, ending the day unbeaten on an 82-ball 40.
But the day was all about Richardson. Josh Hazlewood’s injury meant Richardson was handed his baggy green by Damien Fleming, and he slotted right into Australia’s high-octane pace attack, looking at home alongside Cummins and Mitch Starc.
Cummins broke through after inducing an edge off Lahiru Thirimanne (12) in the 11th over of the day, and Richardson made full use of it the very next over. He sent down a beauty to the Sri Lanka captain, Dinesh Chandimal (5) for his maiden wicket – it was angled in and slanted away, producing an edge that was taken at second slip.
It was a sign of things to come. Dimuth Karunaratne (24) and Kusal Mendis attempted to fight back, putting on a careful 23, but after Nathan Lyon had Karunaratne cramped for room and caught behind, Richardson struck once again.
Mendis (14) was at the receiving end of an absolute peach – Mendis was squared up, and Richardson moved it away at the last to clatter the off stump. Six overs later, he was at it again, surprising Dhananjaya de Silva (5) with a fuller delivery to claim the edge. Sri Lanka were 66/5.
It was then that Niroshan Dickwella spoilt things somewhat for the home side. He walked in and, typically, started attacking the bowlers. He hammered six fours and a six, and his 78-ball 64 was a big reason Sri Lanka managed to post the total they did.
He sealed up one end, even as Suranga Lakmal (7) and Dilruwan Perera (1) were dismissed at the other, and kept putting away the boundaries whenever he could. He tried everything – the six he managed came via a ramp shot off Starc – much to Australia’s frustration, the Dinner break didn’t seem to break his momentum.
Eventually, Cummins had his man with a short of a length delivery – Dickwella holed out to mid-wicket. The innings duly came to an end two balls later, when Dushmantha Chameera became Cummins’ fourth victim.
Thereafter, Australia lost Joe Burns to Lakmal in the 11th over of the innings after Mendis claimed a sharp catch at second slip. But Harris and Usman Khawaja then threaded the gaps, with the younger batsman looking a lot more at ease in the middle.
The two added 35 for the second wicket, but the introduction of Perera removed some of the gloss from a fine day for the home side.
Khawaja chopped one onto his stumps after Perera sent one in with a lot of drift, and that meant the Nightwatchman, Lyon, walked into a pressure cauldron. Sri Lanka, in fact, nearly had him in the final over of the day, but the short-leg fielder couldn’t hold on.
Australia walked back in with a sigh of relief. (Courtesy ICC)