Khawaja stands firm  

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Opener Usman Khawaja held the Australian innings together with an unbeaten 47 as they ended day one 114 runs behind Sri Lanka in the first Test here in Galle, where 13 wickets fell during the day.  

On the wicket that turned square from the inception, Sri Lanka bowled just one over of pace from Asitha Fernando before turning to the spinners to provide the magic, but they weren’t as successful as their Australian counterparts. 

Off spinner Ramesh Mendis provided the breakthrough removing David Warner – who was striking at over 100 – followed by Marnus Labuschagne. Khawaja was lucky to escape a stumping chance on 26 as Dickwella failed to collect the ball when Khawaja came down the track and completely missed the delivery by Mendis. Steven Smith was unfortunate to go due to a terrible mix-up. Khawaja called for a single from the non-striker’s end to which Smith responded, but Khawaja turned back with Smith more than half way down the track. Australia ended the day three down for 98 in 25 overs.

Earlier, Sri Lanka got past 200 courtesy of a counter attacking half century by Niroshan Dickwella, the 20th of his Test career, before being undone by off spinner Nathan Lyon who claimed his 20th five wicket haul to finish with 5 for 90.

Sri Lanka started steadily before Pat Cummins provided the breakthrough with the wicket of Pathum Nissanka, who played on the back foot away from his body but only succeeded in edging the ball to wicket keeper Alex Carey. Kusal Mendis was a victim of Mitchell Starc trying to drive, and only able to nick one to Carey. This brought the two Josephians together, former skipper Angelo Mathews and skipper Dimuth Karunarathne. The duo tried to bring some calmness in their 32 run stand, but Lyon started off the hunt with the wicket of Karunarathne through a brilliant catch by David Warner.

The whole team went up appealing for lbw when the ball hit the pad, but Warner who closely followed the ball saw it hit bat before pad and dived to take the catch as umpire Kumar Dharmasena signaled not out. Australia reviewed successfully.

Mitchell Swepson with action similar to late Shane Warne  then came to the party claiming two in two to remove Dhananjaya de Silva for 14 and Dinesh Chandimal for a golden duck to leave Sri Lanka reeling five down for 97.

Niroshan Dickwella then changed the course with a counter attack. He began with a customary sweep as first he put on a 42-run stand with Angelo Mathews, and then 54 runs with Ramesh Mendis, which got Sri Lanka close to 200. Mathews who was looking good on 39 off 71 looked to work one on the leg side against Lyon, but only managed to hit the ball straight to Warner at leg slip.

Mendis followed Dickwella bringing up several sweeps in his 22 off 36 as the pair looked for quick runs in their 64 balls 54 stand before being undone LBW by Lyon.

Dickwella brought up his half century number 20 in 42 deliveries showing that’s the way to go on a pitch that was turning square from the first delivery, before edging one to Carey of Lyon for 58 leaving Sri Lanka 8 down for 198. Lasith Embuldeniya slog swept for six against Lyon to bring up 200 for Sri Lanka before becoming Lyon’s fifth victim in the next over. Swepson claimed his third wicket (3 for 55) in the next over to remove Jeffrey Vandersay and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 212, 95 more than what Sri Lanka managed in the first innings of the first Test during Australia’s 2016 tour, which they went on to win 3-0.

SLC organized a Commemoration Ceremony for the late legend Shane Warne prior to the match, where a number of 1996 World Cup winning team including skipper Arjuna Ranathunga, Aravinda de Silva, Muttiah Muralitharan, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Upul Chandana participated, while Pramodya Wickramasinghe (Chief selector) and Kumar Dharmasena (on field umpire) too were present.

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Galle