Sri Lanka will not lose this two-Test series without a fight, causing major headaches for Australia on day two in Galle to organize an exciting final three days.
The hosts reached stumps at 2-184, reducing the deficit to just 180 runs against Australia, who had lost 5-35 in the first session.
Scroll down to find the talking points from the second day of the second quiz!
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REPORT FOR THE SECOND DAY: Late magic from Swepson saves Aussies from blushing as Sri Lanka’s surge gathers momentum
MATCH CENTER: Australia vs Sri Lanka Second Test Live Scoreboard
AUSTRALIA MUST GET READY FOR A FAMILIAR SORRY BATTLE
Days of cricket against Australia are rarely so flawless.
On Saturday, Sri Lanka took 5-66 with the ball before posting 184 with the bat for the loss of just two wickets.
He is now just 180 off the lead with eight wickets in hand – which is surprising considering Australia started the day at 5-298.
Still, there’s no need to be too dramatic about Australia’s chances in Galle. Test cricket has been won in five days and this match is only two days away.
However, Australia will now be properly tested in Sri Lanka, after being virtually outclassed in the first Test.
Some might have thought that Sri Lanka would turn around again, given their lackluster display in the first Test and the number of Covid-related absences they had to endure.
But you can’t underestimate the humiliation of losing by 10 wickets in seven sessions and the desperation to restore Sri Lanka’s pride ever since.
From here, Sri Lanka can do much more than just restore pride.
His top order duly valued their wickets, playing a patient game in the face of well-disciplined bowling before Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis took their chances in a brilliant final session, barring a late miss.
It has to be said that Saturday provided the easiest batting conditions we have seen in this series, with Australia missing a few half-chances such as Swapson dropping a reverse catch to Karunaratne, who he eventually dismissed.
Despite this, Sri Lanka’s 212 and 113 runs in the first Test were massive.
Whatever it takes from here for Australia to win will take time and patience.
Pat Cummins burned a speculative chance review in the 45th over in a signal of some early desperation from Australia, who struggled to create clear-cut chances.
Fortunately, Cummins won’t have to cast his postgame thoughts too far into the past in trying to find a winning formula.
The quest for a wicket was as grueling as it was in Pakistan earlier this year when Australia finally won the series in the final session of the final day of the final Test.
The wicket for the final Test in Lahore began to spin towards the end of the encounter before Australia won by five wickets in the final session.
The wicket in Galle will also be spinning – and Sri Lanka should bat last.
Australia may have started the day hoping to knock Sri Lanka out of the series (more on that later), but they may have to settle for a dogfight instead.
SWEPSON’S AMAZING TACTICS TO CAUSE DEBATE
Australia’s job did get a little easier just before stumps thanks to Swepson creating magic out of nothing.
Karunaratne hardly put a foot wrong in the entire session and he stumbled only after a century and stumps.
Funny things happen late, and so it was no surprise to see Swepson with his tail up late in the evening despite Sri Lanka’sending on on down in on Sunday evening on the rise of Sri Lanka, with his tail up.
What was surprising, however, was how sparingly the Cummins was used.
At the time of the wicket, Swapson had bowled only his seventh over in 56 overs. It also hasn’t been used since ’43.
However, Cummins will argue that he was used at the right time, coming into his own and taking just four balls to make a crucial wicket breakthrough.
The ball rolled further towards the stumps and Karunaratne made the mistake of trying to cut the delivery down the side. He ended up being just as tough, though he did burn a review on his way back to the barns.
Others may argue that Swepson could have produced more if he had simply been used more.
Either way, we can see Swepson allow himself a few longer spells on day three after his late impact.
Reaching just 364 after taking 5-298 overnight and then 5-329 in the 98th was a disappointing end to an Australian innings that had set the tone for the day.
The tourists were guilty of taking their foot off Sri Lanka’s throat when there was a great opportunity to knock Sri Lanka out of the game and thus out of the series.
Sri Lanka have now made the most of the favorable batting conditions on the second day that Australia missed out on to set up an exciting final three days.
Alex Carey at the start of the second day laid the foundation for a big partnership with Steve Smith that would lead the tourists to a horrendous result.
And then things went pear-shaped, much to Smith’s surprise at the other end.
Carey’s ill-judged reverse swing for 28 exposed the tail, but even so, Australia’s tail is not usually the easiest to bowl.
Except on Saturday Mitchell Starc was out for one, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon for five and Swepson for three.
Smith was stranded on 145 at a time when he looked determined to post a huge score.
The shake of his head as he left the field said it all. A big chance was wasted for both Australia and himself.
Australia cruised to 321 on a much more difficult wicket in the first Test.
That Australia managed just 43 extra runs in more predictable conditions will disappoint the tourists and ring alarm bells ahead of next year’s tour of India.
Excluding the contributions of Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and extras, the other nine Australian batsmen made just 100 runs.
Sri Lanka’s main destroyer was debutant Prabat Jayasuriya, who took 6-118 with an orthodox left-armer.
That struggle against Jayasuriya, in particular, will be keenly marked by India, where Australia will tour in February and March next year for a blockbuster series.
SMITH BECK OVER THE MAGIC MARK
Australia’s late flop with the bat was good in at least one respect.
With an asterisk ‘not out’ next to his 145 at Galle, Smith’s Test average will remain above the magical 60.00 mark – at least until his next innings.
How much Smith himself is obsessed with the sign only he knows, but it appears to be the tipping point that separates the right-hander from becoming a Test legend and becoming a Bradman-like wonder.
Including Smith and Bradman, only seven Test players have ever averaged more than 60 (minimum 1000 runs). Smith and Adam Voges are the only players to do so in the last 50 years, although the latter scored 1,485 runs compared to Smith’s 8,161.
Only Bradman has made more Test runs with a better average, albeit in a very different era.
Smith’s 18-month hitting streak, which finally ended Friday, saw Smith’s batting average drop through the elite barrier into the fifties.
The right-hander was always expected to bounce back, but 16 innings without a century and just one score above 85 was more pain than most thought he would endure.
Favorable batting conditions in Pakistan were hoped to change Smith’s fortunes, but he failed to convert three consecutive half-centuries.
In the first Test against Sri Lanka, his problems deepened after he got confused by Usman Khawaja, which saw him run out cheaply for six.
Unsurprisingly, he looked determined for the second Test – even by the strict standards of Smith, who will feel he is back where he belongs.
DID THE AUSTRIANS MISS A TRICK WITH MAXWELL?
A day before the second Test, Cummins dismissed the odd possibility that Glenn Maxwell would play despite a big win in the first match.
In that interview, he spoke about the importance of finding “an extra 20-30 runs” in a spin condition.
Australia would certainly want an extra 30 runs now after Sri Lanka pulled themselves right into the contest.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Maxwell would have scored those extra 20-30 runs, but the benefit of hindsight allows us to believe that his selection could have been a smart move.
Maxwell’s potential inclusion has put Mitchell Starc at risk with Australia considering taking only Cummins and Cameron Green as pace options.
It was felt that Maxwell could provide 15-20 quality spins and also make a significant contribution with the bat.
On the second day, Starc lasted just eight balls and scored one run in short order. With the ball, he made an early breakthrough into the Australian team, but was otherwise forced to work with little reward.
It’s hard to imagine Maxwell not making as much of an impact on Saturday.
The point is that Australia would have been in serious trouble in this Test if not for the batting contributions of Smith and Labuschagne.
The pair were responsible for Australia’s 249 runs while middle-order batsmen Travis Head (12), Cameron Green and Alex Carey (28) missed out and the tail scored just 14 runs.
Making room for Maxwell is another path that looks strong in retrospect.
Admittedly, Head took 4-10 in an incredible triple spell in the first Test, but he struggles with the bat when it is not his role to secure big wickets. Indeed, he was not even called upon to bowl in the first 40 overs of the innings in Sri Lanka and then bowled just three overs for the day.
The left-hander now averages just 24.93 outside Australia from 11 Tests, while Maxwell is an established spinner who boasts a century in India in 2017 as well as a first-class batting average of 39. 81.