CANBERRA, Feb 3: Usman Khawaja finally found form again to stroke a fine century on Sunday and steer Australia into a massive lead over Sri Lanka as the tourists battle to stay in the second Test at Canberra.
At stumps, the visitors were 17 without loss, chasing a huge 516 to win with two days remaining after Tim Paine declared Australia’s second innings at 196 for three.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne were both unbeaten on eight, weathering some 30 minutes before bad light stopped play slightly early. Sri Lanka had resumed the third day at 123 for three and in a hostile morning session lost four wickets and Kusal Perera, who retired after being hit on the head by a bouncer.
Their resistance folded in the second over after lunch, with Mitchell Starc taking five wickets to leave them trailing by 319 after Australia’s first innings 534 for five declared.
Paine opted against the follow-on in Australia’s last Test batting opportunity before the Ashes tour to England later this year.
Khawaja padded up knowing his place in that squad was in doubt after managing a high-score of just 72 across six Tests in a lacklustre summer.
He responded in emphatic fashion, smashing his eighth Test ton off 134 balls. It was Australia’s fourth century of the match after Joe Burns, Travis Head and Kurtis Patterson reached the milestone in the first innings. Paine declared with Khawaja on 101 and Head not out on 59, following his first innings score of 161.
But it was far from plain sailing, with the hosts losing three early wickets. Marcus Harris again failed, out for 14 with Kusal Mendis taking a superb diving catch at slip off Kasun Rajitha, throwing his Ashes place into question.
Mendis held another catch to dismiss Burns for nine, this time off Vishwa Fernando, and Rajitha struck again to remove Marnus Labuschagne for four.
In an incident-packed morning at Manuka Oval, the ball was handed first up to Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins and they responded with a slew of bouncers. – AFP