Galle: Sri Lanka have the chance to seal a first series victory over Australia in 17 years when the second Test begins Thursday in Galle, with Rangana Herath looking to wreak more havoc on his favourite ground.
Herath, who had match figures of 9 for 103 in Sri Lanka’s thrilling win the first Test in Pallekele last weekend, will again be the key to the hosts’ chances of success in Galle where he has a formidable record.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann has already acknowledged that the surface on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast is likely to turn from the outset and benefit the hosts’ spin-laden line-up.
“I think it’ll still spin from day one, but it just is what it is,” Lehmann said in the aftermath of Pallekele, a match in which the left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan also bagged seven wickets on his debut.
Herath took 10 wickets in his last Test outing in Galle, against the West Indies in November. He also ran through India’s powerful batting line-up three months earlier when he took a match-winning 7 for 48 in the second innings.
Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews said the 38-year-old Herath had once again “proved his brilliance” in the first Test which also featured a superb 176 by Kusal Mendis in the second innings.
Mendis’s maiden Test hundred could not mask the fragility of the Sri Lankan batting line-up, as no other batsman passed 50.
“This is a very good opportunity for us,” said skipper Mathews. “We are ranked number seven in the ICC rankings and Australia are number one. We need to play well in Galle to seal the series,” he warned.
Sri Lanka’s only previous series victory over the Australians was in 1999 — 1-0 in a three-match contest in which Herath made his debut.
“I was a little kid when we won the last time,” said the 29-year-old Mathews.
Sri Lanka are expected to be unchanged for Galle but Australia will be without spinner Steve O’Keefe, who has been forced to fly home with a pulled hamstring.
Uncapped left-arm spinner Jon Holland has been called up as a replacement.
“He’s tall, he’s got good shape on the ball, he bowls at a decent pace. I’m sure he’ll have success here,” said Lehmann of the 29-year-old from Victoria.
Australia are expected to stick to the same batting line-up but will need their top order to fire after everyone bar Smith failed to pass 50.
Adam Vogues, Joe Burns and Mitchell Marsh all failed to convert starts as Australia squandered an 86-run first innings lead to lose the match by 106 runs.
Vice-captain David Warner — back after six weeks out with a broken finger — registered scores of nought and one.
Australia’s last outing to the sub-continent saw them lose all four Tests against India in 2013 and they also lost both matches when Pakistan hosted them for a two-Test series in 2014 in the Gulf.
“We have got to find our plans and find ways to play in these conditions… (We) have to turn it around quickly,” said Smith.
Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Jon Holland, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep.