Fiery Starc gets Australia closer to crushing win
Mitchell Starc ripped through Sri Lanka picking up four wickets in the second innings. (AFP Image)

A fired-up Mitchell Starc took four wickets as a dominant Australia edged closer to a confidence-boosting series thrashing of Sri Lanka Monday, with the tourists chasing a massive 516 in the second Test in Canberra.

In front of a sparse crowd, Sri Lanka went to lunch at 87 for five with Kusal Mendis not out 13 and Dhananjaya de Silva on one, still 429 adrift on day four. Tim Paine set the big run chase after declaring Australia’s second innings at 196 for three, following their mammoth first innings 534 for five declared. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 215 in reply.

Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne had survived a tough six overs on Sunday ahead of stumps, and they resumed on 17 without loss. Sri Lanka bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake had made clear the team wanted to at least take the game into a fifth day to provide some momentum ahead of a Test tour to South Africa later this month.

But Karunaratne did not heed the message. He failed to add to his overnight eight with the on-fire Mitchell Starc, bowling at close to 145 kph (90 mph), clipping his leg bail in only the third over of the day. It was a big blow for Sri Lanka with the experienced opener their best batsman in the first innings before he was struck in the head by a Pat Cummins bouncer.

Captain Dinesh Chandimal also failed to deliver, struggling against the speed of a resurgent Starc who snapped a lean run with five first innings wickets. He poked at an away swinger and was caught at slip for four by Marnus Labuschagne, capping a miserable series in which he managed just 24 runs in two Tests.

Niroshan Dickwella was next in, promoted to number four from his usual six and the wicketkeeper-batsman was building a handy partnership before Thirimanne was removed by Cummins for 30. Thirimanne tried to fend off a short ball from the paceman but it ricocheted off his bat and Cummins took an athletic diving catch.

It went from bad to worse for Sri Lanka with Dickwella bowled by Starc for 27 just before lunch and Kusal Perera, cleared to play after taking a hit on the helmet on Sunday, out for a golden duck next ball.

Brief scores: Australia 534/5 decl. (Joe Burns 180, Travis Head 161, Kurtis Patterson 114*; Vishwa Fenrando 3-126) and 196/3 decl. (Usman Khawaja 101*; Kasun Rajitha 2-64) ) lead Sri Lanka (Dimuth Karunaratne 59; Mitchell Starc 5-54) and 87/5 (Lahiru Thirimanne 30; Mitchell Starc 4-22) by 428 runs.