Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Cameron Green stars as Australia build strong lead on truncated day

Cameron Green scored an enterprising half-century Getty Images

Australia 313 for 8 (Green 77, Khawaja 71, Ramesh 4-107) lead Sri Lanka 212 by 101 runs

Two sensational seventies from Cameron Green and Usman Khawaja gave Australia a vital lead over Sri Lanka on a weather-affected second day in Galle as the pitch continued to deteriorate quickly.

Green made 77, his fifth Test half-century, and Khawaja 71 while Alex Carey put on a sweeping masterclass to add a valuable 47-ball 45. The trio produced the two highest partnerships of the match on the difficult surface. Khawaja and Green put on 57 in 77 balls before Green and Carey combined for 84 in just 93 to help Australia to 313 for 8 at stumps when bad light stopped play just moments after Pat Cummins hit his third six out of the ground. Cummins' 26 not out helped Australia's lead swell to 101 with two wickets remaining.

Ramesh Mendis bowled tirelessly to collect 4 for 107, but Sri Lanka bowled just one maiden in 69 overs, at a team economy rate of 4.53. Sri Lanka's three other specialist bowlers, Asitha Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya and Jeffrey Vandersay combined for 2 for 175 from 32 overs.

Play on the second day was delayed by three hours and 45 minutes after a storm had thrashed Galle international stadium overnight and during the morning. The roof collapsed on one temporary stand while a pane of glass was blown over on another tent. Several camera structures were damaged as was the sightscreen.

The players arrived to see the ground entirely covered and soaked by the rain. The Australian team briefly contemplated leaving the venue and heading back to the hotel but the clouds parted and the strong winds dried the ground quickly and play started at 1.45pm local time, with 59 overs scheduled for the day across two sessions.

When play finally began, Travis Head only lasted seven balls. He closed the face too early trying to work ill-advisedly against the offspin of Dhananjaya de Silva only to offer a return catch off the leading edge.

But where Head looked all at sea without a paddle, Khawaja and Green brought out their brooms and executed their plans to perfection. They rotated the strike with ease using crisp, precise footwork and sharp decision-making. Both batters moved up and down the crease in addition to consistently sweeping to not allow Sri Lanka's spinners to settle on a length or line.

Khawaja cracked two magnificent slog sweeps forward of square, while Green unveiled a superb sweep of his own to dissect two men in the deep and showcase the power of work he had done in the lead-up to this series.

The strong wind did not help Sri Lanka's spinners settle but the surface was still playing tricks and Australia needed some luck. Green survived a very close lbw shout sweeping at the wrong length from Ramesh. He was given not out and survived a razor-thin review having been hit in line, but with the ball only clipping leg stump the umpire's call stood. He also could have been stumped two overs later when an offbreak from Ramesh ragged through the gate after he skipped down, but it spun too sharply for keeper Niroshan Dickwella and ran away for four byes.

Khawaja was beaten repeatedly but he cleverly played for the ball that didn't turn and never followed it as deliveries exploded past his outside edge from a surface that was crumbling by the hour.

The pair raced to a half-century stand in just 11 overs. It took a peach from Vandersay to finally break the stand when a sharp leg break caught Khawaja's inside edge and was brilliantly held at short leg by Pathum Nissanka to give the debutant his first Test wicket.

But Carey upped the ante from the moment he walked out. He reverse swept his first ball and scored off 11 of his first 12 deliveries, including a strong reverse sweep for four in front of point against the turn of Vandersay.

Carey's relentless sweeping could not be contained as Green calmly fed him the strike. Dimuth Karunaratne turned back to the pace of Asitha Fernando in the 45th over for just his second over of the match and Carey slapped him twice contemptuously through cover for four.

Australia raced past 200 inside 47 overs and into the lead two overs later. Green played one of the shots of the day, skipping down to Vandersay to whip him against the turn wide of mid-on. Carey then delivered another outrageous reverse sweep to find the rope.

The scoring slowed after tea as Fernando bowled bouncers at Green from around the wicket to force him to duck repeatedly. Karunaratne then changed the field for Ramesh to Carey. The left-hander had scored exclusively square of the wicket against the spinners. Karunaratne brought long-off up to invite Carey to go over the top with the spin, he was tempted first ball but miscued. Dinesh Chandimal ran back with the flight at mid-off to take a superb catch.

Such was the confidence of Green, the dismissal did nothing to curb his proactive batting. The very next ball he skipped down to Ramesh and produced a dazzling drive against the turn past mid-off. He cruised to 77 with the help of Mitchell Starc before finally being undone trying to sweep. Ramesh dipped one under his bat from around the wicket and trapped him plumb lbw to leave him 23 short of that elusive maiden Test century. He has fallen between 74 and 84 each time he has passed fifty.

Starc fell shortly after to a great caught and bowled from Vandersay. But his ecstasy turned to agony when Cummins clubbed him for three huge sixes and a four, with the last ball of the day landing near the fort outside the ground.