GALLE, Sri Lanka, (Reuters) – Paceman Ryan Harris captured five wickets as Australia made full use of the second new ball to break a stubborn sixth-wicket partnership and mop up the tail on the way to a 125-run victory over Sri Lanka on the fourth day of the first test yesterday.
Harris took two wickets in the afternoon session to finish with figures of 5-62, with the removal of Mahela Jayawardene for a brilliant 105 proving to be the catalyst for the victory charge after the hosts had frustrated Australia in the morning.
Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews had batted superbly to rescue Sri Lanka from 68-5, the pair adding 142 runs before the former edged a Harris delivery on to his stumps six overs after Australia had taken the new ball as soon as it became available.
The remaining four wickets fell cheaply and Mathews was dismissed an agonising five runs short of a maiden test century after he opted to attack the bowlers when he was running out of partners.
“Ryan Harris bowled beautifully,” Michael Clarke told reporters after his first test win as Australia captain.
“I was bit nervous at the rain. I was confident once we changed the ball, once we got the harder ball, we were going to get a little bit more inconsistent bounce in the wicket.
“All credit should go to Mathews and Mahela. Mahela played a great innings. He was really hard to get out.”
Resuming on 187-5 after lunch, Jayawardene reached his 29th century off 229 balls, spending five hours at the crease in Sri Lanka’s forlorn chase of the 379-run winning target set by Australia on Friday.
Jayawardene became the first player to score a test century in the fourth innings on a Galle pitch that historically favours spin bowlers while Australia’s former captain Ricky Ponting became the first player to participate in 100 test victories.
Mathews faced 238 balls to reach 95 when he was the ninth wicket to fall, bowled by Shane Watson, with the last pair adding four more runs before Nathan Lyon, who took five wickets in the first innings on debut, completed the victory as the hosts were dismissed for 253.
“That was one of the toughest wickets I have played test cricket on. No doubt, it was prepared for spin bowling… Day one looked like day four of a test match,” Clarke said.
The match was a low-scoring affair with Australia managing 273 and 210 in their two innings and Sri Lanka falling for 105 in their first innings as Lyon ran through the batting order with figures of 5-34.
Rangana Herath was the pick of Sri Lanka’s attack with match figures of 8-133 while Australia batsman Michael Hussey picked up the man-of-the-match award for his battling 95 on the opening day.
“We had planned for 220-230 in the first innings,” Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan told reporters. “The fightback in the second innings was good. We will have to see the wicket before deciding the team for the next test match in Kandy.”
The second test in the three-match series starts on Thursday.