Galle: Australia’s Nathan Lyon on Wednesday said the first Test is in the balance after his five-wicket haul helped bowl out Sri Lanka for 212 but the hosts hit back with three wickets on day one.
The tourists reached 98 for three at stumps after Sri Lankan spinner Ramesh Mendis struck twice, including David Warner’s key wicket for 25, on a turning pitch at the picturesque Galle stadium.
Earlier, wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella made a defiant 58 before the Sri Lankan innings folded in the final session of a quick-moving game.
“I was really proud the way we came back after tea and stuck to our plans and we were able to get the late rewards and knock them over,” Lyon said on bowling out the hosts after they took tea at 191-6.
“Saying that, I see this game as even, there’s still a lot of work to do.”
In the Australian innings, Steve Smith was run out on six after a mix up with opener Usman Khawaja, unbeaten on 47, and returned to the pavilion waving his hands in dismay.
Attempted reverse sweep
Khawaja and fellow left-hander Travis Head, on six, were batting with Australia still trailing by 114 runs in their first innings.
Mendis, an off-spinner, trapped Warner lbw after the left-handed opener hit five boundaries in an attacking stay at the wicket.
Marnus Labuschagne was out to an attempted reverse sweep but it was Smith’s wicket that brought the home crowd alive. The former captain was turned down midway for a quick single by Khawaja and failed to make the crease despite a desperate dive.
Khawaja, who survived a missed stumping by Dickwella, kept up the fight to the close of play.
But Lyon, who bagged his 20th five-wicket haul in Tests, stood out for Australia and combined with fellow spinner Mitchell Swepson, a leg-spinner who took three wickets, to rattle the opposition batting.
“I’m extremely proud of Sweppo,” said Lyon of the up and coming wrist spinner who took two wickets in his recent debut series in Pakistan.
“You talk to him and he didn’t have the series he wanted in Pakistan, but to be honest I still thought he was learning and learning how hard Test cricket is to play.”
Fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc struck early with a wicket each as Sri Lanka took lunch at 68-2. The spinners soon took charge on a pitch traditionally known to assist the slow bowlers.
The left-handed Dickwella counter-attacked during his 59-ball stay at the crease and put on key partnerships, including a 54-run stand with Mendis, who made 22, for the seventh wicket.
Dickwella reached his fifty off 42 balls in the second session but Lyon finally got him out, also sending back Mendis after tea.
Lyon got his fifth wicket in Lasith Embuldeniya and Swepson, who was on a hat-trick denied by Dickwella, ended the innings after 59 overs.
Angelo Mathews also contributed to the Sri Lankan total with his 39 and stood with Dickwella in a 42-run stand broken by Lyon.
“Obviously we would have liked more runs in the first innings after having won the toss. We lost wickets in clumps after the break, something we need to work on,” Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood said.
“The way Dickwella and Ramesh played was excellent, it put pressure back onto the Australians. All said, come back tomorrow take quick wickets then Australia are under pressure.”
Sri Lanka are bowling with four spinners and a lone fast bowler in Asitha Fernando. Debutant leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay bowled three overs.