Lunch Sri Lanka 7 for 215 (Dilrwaun 10*) trail 5 for 534 by 319 runs
Sri Lanka succumbed to both spin and fearsome short-pitched barrage from Australia’s quicks on the third morning, losing four wickets, while another batsman had to retire hurt. Breaching speeds of 150kph, Mitchell Starc delivered the most intimidating bowling of the series so far, dismissing both Dhananjaya de Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne in the same over. It was Jhye Richardson, however, who hit Kusal Perera flush in the helmet, forcing him to retire hurt in the next over, when he began to feel the delayed effects of the blow.
With Nathan Lyon and Marnus Labuschagne also taking a wicket apiece as lunch approached, Sri Lanka’s position in the game deteriorated from poor to dire. If Kusal does not bat again – and there is a chance he won’t as he will first undergo a concussion test – Sri Lanka are down to their tailenders. It seems unlikely that Australia will enforce the follow-on, as they have already bowled 67 overs, and it is a hot day in Canberra, but they are positioned to take a giant lead into the second innings.
Sri Lanka had begun the day smartly, with Dhananjaya and Kusal hitting early boundaries, as the Australia quicks first employed a plan of bowling fuller, perhaps in the hopes of gleaning some morning movement. Even through this period, though, Sri Lanka did have trouble with Australia’s occasional bouncers. Pat Cummins – who had felled Dimuth on day two – struck Dhananjaya in the helmet in the second over of the day. Kusal also sustained a blow on the glove, as he attempted to fend a bouncer away.
With no movement on offer, Australia began to bowl more short deliveries, and it was then that Sri Lanka ran into trouble. Kusal essentially ducked into a bouncer from Richardson and was struck in the helment next to his right ear – parts of the helmet disintegrating due to the force of the blow. He stayed on his feet and initially continued batting, but felt unwell the following over, and was helped off the field by Sri Lanka’s physio.
Dimuth, who was cleared to bat by doctors overnight, resumed his innings and walked straight into a bouncer barrage, but it would be a fuller, wider delivery that eventually got him. He scored the four runs he required to complete a half century, but was caught at gully attempting to flay the fiery Starc through the covers. Earlier in that same over, de Silva had attempted to hook a Starc bouncer, and ended up knocking off his own off bail, unable to control the swing of his bat.
Chamika Karunaratne’s first Test innings lasted only five balls, before he edged a turning Nathan Lyon delivery to leg slip. Niroshan Dickwella batted with characteristic spunk in the approach to lunch, hitting 25 off 22 balls, as he engaged with verbal tussles with the Australia players. He was given out lbw to Labuschagne in the over before lunch. He reviewed the decision, and although there was a faint murmur on Snicko to suggest he may have gloved the ball before it hit his pads, third umpire Marais Erasmus did not see this as sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field decision.