When Sri Lanka slumped to 117 in the first innings of the first Test match against the visiting Australians, not many gave them enough chances to yield a result that they have just produced. Sri Lanka clinched the first Test by 107 runs from the jaws of Australians.
This victory is very important for Sri Lanka, not for the fact that this is only their second victory against Australia in Tests since 1999, but because this has come at a time when they were going through a rough patch and were on a look-out for some motivation. It is only after the end of the Test match that they saw motivation coming from within.
It is very tough to point out who was Sri Lanka’s hero in the first Test. Rangana Herath took a five-wicket haul in the second innings. He was as much dangerous in the first innings, where he took 4 wickets. Then there was Lakshan Sandakan, who has a debut to remember, taking 7 wickets in the match. The winner, however, has to be Kusal Mendis, who fittingly replaced Kumar Sangakkara at the number 3 position. He hit not only the best knock of his life but one of the best knocks to come out of a Sri Lankan batsman in last 10 years.
On a track, which saw teams crossing the 200-mark only twice and getting out below 200 the same number of times, a knock of 176 runs shows some grit. When Mendis came out to bat as Sri Lanka’s second innings was sinking, he had a task cut-out. He did not let the pressure get the better of him. He played with a strike rate of just below 70 in Tests. This shows that he was not there just to negate giving any wickets to bowlers.
Thanks to that gritty knock, Sri Lanka recovered from 85 for four to finish at 353 all-out. By then, they were leading by 268 runs.
Australia had a massive task ahead of them when they started their second innings. Sri Lanka’s latest magician with the ball Rangana Herath took the baton from Mendis to chase a Sri Lanka victory in the match. Herath drew the first blood when he got David Warner out for just 1 run. Sandakan and Perera added to the woes of Kangaroos as they picked Joe Burns (29) and Usman Khawaja (18) cheaply too.
Bad light saved Australia from any further blemishes but the clouds of danger still prevailed above their heads. Herath and company began their hunt on the fifth day as one Australian wicket after the other fell and Australia eventually crumbled at the score of 161, losing the match by 106-run margin.
This is a sort of Asian uprising in Test match cricket. Pakistan won their first Test against England at Lord’s. It was a Test match where nobody gave them any chance. Same was said for Sri Lanka before they played their first ball against Australia in this Test match. Results show that there is still some strength left in the two Asian giants.