Bowlers hardly raise sweat
WHEN Australia's selectors determine which of its three incumbent seamers make way for Mitchell Starc's return in Sydney, they will not be able to use Boxing Day Test workload as a crutch for their decision.
Such was the collective dominance of Mitchell Johnson, Jackson Bird and Peter Siddle against Sri Lanka's batsmen they collectively bowled only 57.2 overs. They also earned an extra two-and-a-half days of rest after sealing a whopping innings and 201-run victory before the halfway mark of the second Test.
It was not a perfect Test performance by Australia, but it was a complete one. From the moment Sri Lanka lost three wickets in the first 65 minutes on Friday, its fate was sealed. From the opening day, it never came close to making the contest an even one, let alone ensuring the duel for the Warne-Muralidaran Trophy would stretch to the final match of the series.
That's handy: Jackson Bird and Ed Cowan rejoice at the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
The two batsmen whose 194-run partnership entrenched Australia's dominance, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, were each spared when on five. Those blunders were pivotal in the Sri Lankan squad leaving the MCG nursing thumb, finger and hamstring injuries - to Prasanna Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Chanaka Welegedara respectively - but also deservedly bruised egos.
Australia already boasted a 300-plus lead when it started day three on Friday. The main interest centred on whether Nathan Lyon and Bird could survive long enough to shepherd Mitchell Johnson to the 27 additional runs he needed for a second Test century.
While personal milestones are secondary to team achievements, it was disappointing given the favourable circumstances that Lyon could not curb his aggression sufficiently to give Johnson his best shot at a home century. After absorbing just five deliveries, Lyon sought to heave the sixth, from Angelo Mathews, from outside off-stump to in front of square-leg, and succeeded only in lobbing a simple catch to substitute Dinesh Chandimal at mid-wicket.
Boxing Day Test: Day three highlights
Australia's Jackson Bird bowls out Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
With Test debutant Bird having reached double figures with the bat only twice in 15 Sheffield Shield innings, Johnson, then on 83, could not have expected to be able to edge towards his milestone. From the second ball he faced after being joined by Bird, he struck a boundary, and within three overs was in the 90s. That was where he stayed as Shaminda Eranga, clearly Sri Lanka's most threatening seamer, breached Bird's porous forward defence.
When Sri Lanka began its second innings, its deficit of 344 was immaterial. The main interest was in how long the visitors could prolong the inevitable. After the third and fourth deliveries of their innings reaped wickets, the answer was clear: not long.
The most memorable aspect of inexperienced opener Dimuth Karunaratne's first innings in Australia was that he wore fluoro orange batting gloves - not a glowing endorsement of his batting. A switch to a more traditional colour did nothing to change his fortunes. After the left-hander nudged Johnson to cover, he completed a first run and aimed for a second, before he and partner Tillakaratne Dilshan were spooked by David Warner's tenacious chase from point.
Karunaratne retreated mid-pitch but was caught short as Warner's slightly awry throw to the bowler's end came early enough for Johnson to grab the return and lunge the two metres he needed to break the stumps.
With the next delivery, Johnson's chest-bound delivery to Dilshan was bunted into the safe hands of Ed Cowan at short-leg.
Sri Lanka's awful score of 2-1 became 3-3 at the end of the second over when Mahela Jayawardene unsuccessfully sought to let a Bird delivery pass outside off-stump and was bowled off an inside edge. When Thilan Samaraweera became Bird's second - and Sri Lanka's fourth - victim in the sixth over, the tourists were, for the third time in as many innings in this series, relying on Sangakkara to lead the resistance.
Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews survived the last seven-and-a-half overs before lunch, but returned with the daunting prospect of there still being eight sessions left in the match.
Just 14 deliveries later, Sangakkara was lost to the cause after he had his finger crunched by Johnson, an injury that will sideline him for the next two months.
Mathews might be Sri Lanka's captain-in-waiting, but his leadership credentials were undermined by his decision to attempt a pull shot in Johnson's next over and, like outgoing captain Jayawardene, could only chop the ball onto his stumps.
Dhammika Prasad and Rangana Herath played like stereotypical, exuberant tailenders and got three boundaries between them, with Prasad crunching successive sixes off Lyon, to make a minuscule dent in Australia's lead.
Sri Lanka's decision to not force injured pair Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene to bat after slumping to 7-103 was the correct one.
Welegedara, even without a runner, theoretically could have hobbled out for a swing, but it would have done nothing to soften Sri Lanka's thrashing.
The damage had been done long before, by the Australians with bat and ball, and the Sri Lankans themselves with the bat.