Smith, Labuschagne lead Aussies with tones

Marnus Labschagne has taken advantage of a missed stumping to score his first Test century on foreign soil as Australia made a strong start to the second Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

Labuschagne (104) and Steve Smith (109 not out) combined for a 134-run partnership as the tourists ended day one in a comfortable position on 5-298 after winning the toss.

The Australian No.3’s innings could’ve ended at just 28 after he missed a straight delivery from off-spinner Ramesh Mendis while coming down the wicket, but Sri Lankan wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella made an absolute meal of the chance and allowed Labuschagne ample time to get back inside his crease.

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Smith was 109 not out at stumps after collecting his 28th test century and second against Sri Lanka.

Darren Lehmann in 2004 was the last Australian to score a hundred at spin-friendly Galle Stadium. No Australian managed one in the three-day first test won on the same ground last week.

Labuschagne and Smith combined for 134 runs in 223 deliveries. The third-wicket stand was broken when Labuschagne was stumped by Dickwella to give left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya his maiden test wicket.

“It’s nice to get that (century) off the back, the first one away from home. To contribute and put the team in a position like we did today was very nice,” Labuschagne said. “It’s nice to . . . show people that you can play in not just bouncy, seaming or swinging conditions, but against spin as well.”

Labuschagne said of his and Smith’s stand: “We haven’t beaten together for a century partnership in a few tests. I can’t remember the last time. But it was nice to spend some time out there and . . . talk through it.”

Sri Lanka were made to pay dearly for the missed chance as Labuschagne and Smith ground his bowling attack into the turf in sweltering conditions.

Ironically, Labuschagne’s innings eventually came to an end with a stumping, this time off the bowling of Test debutant Prabath Jayasuriya, who was impressive in his first day of Test action with three wickets.

Smith took over after Labuschagne’s dismissal, ensuring Australia would end the day in a formidable position, even with first Test heroes Travis Head and Cameron Green falling cheaply.

The former captain was run out in his only innings in the first test and he was determined to make amends. Although the pitch offered extra bounce and turn for the spinners, Smith was solid in defense.

He reached his century — his first in 16 innings — with a spectacular cover drive off Kasun Rajitha and had 14 boundaries by stumps. His unbeaten 109 came from 212 balls. He’s beaten for 4 1/2 hours.

Sri Lanka was forced to make four changes to the team that lost the first test by 10 wickets after four players tested positive for COVID-19. Dhananjaya de Silva, debutant Jeffrey Vandersay, Asitha Fernando and Praveen Jayawickrama had to isolated.

The hosts handed test debuts to Kamindu Mendis, Maheesh Theekshana and Jayasuriya, while Kasun Rajitha returned to the side after missing the first test. Australia was unchanged.

Jayasuriya was pleased with his effort on debut.

“When you are playing a team like Australia you need to be patient,” he said. “You need to make sure that your lengths are good and you don’t give away too many loose deliveries. When you create the dot ball pressure, batsmen take chances and play into your hands.”

Theekshana, who troubled the Australians during the limited-overs series, failed to pick up a wicket but he kept one end tight, something Sri Lanka lacked in the first test. His 15 overs cost just 45 runs.

with AP

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