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Australia beats Sri Lanka by 366 runs for 2-0 series win

February 4, 2019
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Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates his 10th wicket against Sri Lanka on day 4 of their cricket test match in Canberra, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Australia won the test by 366 runs and the series 2-0. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Mitchell Starc bowled with recharged confidence to take innings figures of 5-46 and match figures of 10-100 as Australia trounced Sri Lanka by 366 runs in the second cricket test to sweep the two-match series.

One of the most intimidating bowlers in the world at his best, Starc appeared low on confidence during Australia’s previous series against India, taking 13 wickets at an average of 34.5 across four tests.

He was also relatively quiet in the first test against Sri Lanka, taking 2-97 as Australia won by an innings and 40 runs.

But he bowled with some of his usual fire in the first innings of the second test, taking 5-54, and followed up with a second five-wicket haul on Monday, the 11th of his career, as Australia bowled out Sri Lanka 149 as it chased an unlikely 516 to win.

Starc, who was voted player of the match for his second career 10-wicket haul in tests, was supported by Pat Cummings, who took 3-15 from eight overs and was voted player of the series after taking 14 wickets at an average of 7.

“I just tried to come into this week and forget about everything, just try to run in and bowl as fast as I could,” Starc said. “I started to slow down toward the end but it’s been a great week for the group.”

The pitch for the first-ever test match at Manuka Oval was slow and low and Starc had to use his pace, length and swing to run through the Sri Lanka batting lineup twice. He averaged more than 140 kph (87 mph) throughout the match and was too good for a Sri Lanka batting lineup coming off a recent series loss in New Zealand.

“This was the game we’ve been searching for all summer,” Starc said. “To have four century-makers and I guess bowl the way the whole group did this week was fantastic to see as a young and inexperienced group.” No Australian batter had posted a hundred in the summer until Joe Burns broke the drought in the first innings in Canberra.

Sri Lanka was dismissed for 215 in its first innings in response to Australia’s first innings declaration of 534-5, and then faced a huge target when the hosts declared in the second innings at 196-3.

With Sri Lanka resuming at 17-0 on Monday, Starc immediately loosened their tenuous foothold in the match when he bowled Dimuth Karunaratne (8) with the score 18-1. He also removed captain Dinesh Chandimal (4), then struck a crucial double blow close to lunch when he removed Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Perera with consecutive balls, leaving Sri Lanka barely hanging on at 83-5.

The interest in the afternoon session, as Sri Lanka’s defeat became more imminent, was whether Starc could complete a 10-wicket haul.

Cummins snared a couple and Marnus Labushcagne took a wicket to break a troublesome 46-run partnership for the seventh wicket between Kusal Mendis, who top-scored with 42, and Chamika Karunaratne (22).

Sri Lanka’s No. 11, Vishwa Fernando managed to survive an over from Cummings to give Starc, then with nine wickets for the match, his chance at a 10th.

The fifth ball of the over revved up the late drama when it beat Fernando and clipped the top of his off stump without dislodging the bail. Starc looked likely to be denied his 10th wicket in the worst-possible circumstances but produced a trademark yorker next ball to bowl Fernado and complete the milestone.

Sri Lanka, after losing in New Zealand and Australia, now goes to South Africa for a series which offers no respite.

“We were outplayed as a team in all departments,” Chandimal said. “Credit goes to Australia. They have played some outstanding cricket throughout the series and they deserve to win like this.

“We’re a young team and we’re always learning, especially how to play in these tough conditions. I’m sure (we) will come back really strongly in South Africa.”

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