A fighting century from Sadeera Samarawickrama went in vain as an inspired bowling performance by mid-match replacement Tanveer Sangha spun Australia A to a 68-run win in the first of two four-day games against Sri Lanka A.
Leg-spinner Sangha was only parachuted into the match late on day two along with Jimmy Pierson after Matt Kuhnemann and Travis Head were called up to the senior side as injury cover for Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Agar.
The 20-year-old – whose impressive performances for Sydney Thunder and NSW quickly earned him a call-up to Australia’s squad for T20 tours of New Zealand, the Caribbean and Bangladesh last year – claimed four of the last five wickets to fall as Sri Lanka collapsed after tea on the final day.
Set 318 to win on a wearing day four pitch after A skipper Marcus Harris declared Australia’s second innings on 5-212 before play, the Sri Lankans were immediately on the back foot thanks to WA allrounder Aaron Hardie and Queensland quick Nathan McAndrew.
Hardie trapped opener Pabasara Waduge in front for two in the sixth over before McAndrew struck twice, removing skipper Kamindu Mendis (5) and Nuwanidu Fernando (3) to leave Sri Lanka A battling at 3-41.
But a 107-run fourth wicket stand from Minod Bhanuka (87) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (105) saw the hosts fight their way back into the contest after lunch as they threatened to take the game down to the wire. Hardie, who also rescued the tourists’ with a crucial half century on day one, tilted the match back in Australia’s favour when he had Bhanuka edging behind to wicketkeeper Josh Philippe, who also set up Australia’s victory with a counter-attacking 94 off 102 balls in the first innings.
The 23-year-old – one of five West Australian allrounders with the national squads in Sri Lanka – struck again two overs later when Lahiru Udara feathered a delivery down the leg-side to Philippe.
That was when Sangha joined the action, as Philippe claimed another catch when he clung onto a juggling attempt that found the edge of Suminda Lakshan’s bat on 23.
Sangha (4-56) struck again in his next over, sliding a flatter delivery through the defences of Lakshitha Manasinghe before McAndrew (3-31) removed Nisala Tharaka for a duck five balls later.
With centurion Samarawickrama – who played four Test matches in 2017 – still at the crease there was always hope Sri Lanka A could pull off an unlikely victory, but the young leggie put an end to that when he had him spooning a simple chance to Nic Maddinson at wide mid-off. The right-armer sealed the match – and the best figures of his five-game first-class career – when he claimed his fourth wicket of the innings as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 249.
It was a great double for McAndrew who finished with match figures of 4-69 to go with his career-best first-class score of 92 on day one that helped Australia post an imposing first innings total of 379.
The two sides meet again at Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Hambantota for the second four-day match on Tuesday.
Australia ‘A’: 379 and 212-5d (Josh Philippe 69, Nic Maddinson 59, Lakshitha Manasinghe 2-83)
Sri Lanka ‘A’: 274 and 249 (Sadeera Samarawickrama 105, Minod Bhanuka 87, Tanveer Sangha 4-56, Nathan McAndrew 3-31, Aaron Hardie 3-35)