Test On a Knife Edge
Turns out I might have put my foot in my mouth here as Sri Lanka stormed back in the First Test off the back of a magical innings from Kusal Mendis in Kandy on Thursday. A long lost friend pointed you should always wait until both sides have batted on a wicket before declaring a result. He might be proved wise here as Kusal Mendis's remarkable 169 not out powered Sri Lanka's lead towards 200. Australia's attack were made to toil in the Kandy heat as they saw their iron grip on this Test match start to slip from their grasp. On a wearing pitch and with momentum on their side Sri Lanka will fancy their chances of causing a monumental boilover after folding for just 117 in the first innings. Australian threatened to wrap the match up within three days as they had the home side teetering at 4-86, effectively 4-0 closing in on the lunch break. However Mendis had other ideas as he was ably supported by gritty innings from Chandimal and De silva. These middle order partnerships frustrated the Australians as they lost Steven O'Keefe to injury. Australia now face the very real prospect of chasing over 200 on a wearing, turning track over the final two days. Whilst I don't think they will bat as poorly as they did on Day 2 the pressure of a 4th innings run chase won't be any easy assignment.
Mendis Plays the Innings of his Life
Kusal Mendis produced the innings of his life on Thursday as he completed a memorable First Test century. His magical 169 not out dwarfed his previous highest First Class score of 108. Indeed with just 1 Test fifty and 1 First Class hundred at a moderate average of 30 there was little sign that Mendis would be the man to leave Australia reeling. Coming to the crease with Sri Lanka teetering at 2/6, Mendis fresh off a first innings failure would have been have given a chippy welcome by the Australian's. However they were soon silenced as Mendis dispatching the attack to all parts. He was impressive all around the wicket, delivering a straight bat when needed, displaying dancing feet and cutting with authority. Mendis will no doubt have dreamed last night of reaching an unfathomable double century in a match where no other player has scored a half century. If he can complete it it would be a remarkable triumph for a man who had yet to secure his position before this test match.
Familiar Reviews Bungle
Australia frittered away their reviews in familiar fashion on Thursday within the first 30 overs. Steve Smith allowed desperation to get in the way of clear thinking as both reviews were wasted. Whilst you could argue both decisions were marginal Australia must come to grips with how to more efficiently and effectively use their reviews. At the very least you must keep one for the howler up your sleeve. Australia left themselves with 50 overs plus without one, after rolling the dice and challenging 50/50 decisions. The DRS was originally bought into play to get the howler out of the game yet batsman in particular have used them selfishly and hopefully in many instances. Fielding captains also seem to let committee pressure from men around the bat dictate their decisions.
Warner the Key
David Warner is the key man in this 4th innings run chase. The pocket rocket opener will be like a raging bull at the gates after his first inning failure. Warner has turned into an excellent test match batsman the past few years and rarely goes a test match without some form of contribution. With the momentum shifting towards Sri Lanka Warner can turn the tide with his typically aggressive nature. He will be looking to make use of the new ball and try and spread that Sri Lankan field early, alleviating the pressure of having men swarming around the bat. If Warner falls early I expect Australia heads to go down, he holds the key to the result in my opinion.