Much has been written and spoken about Australia’s fast bowling stocks after the drawn Ashes series.
Hope is a beautiful thing. In a lacklustre Test match that ended in just over two and a half days, both Australia and Sri Lanka were playing with this feeling burgeoned deeply inside them.
The home team were hoping for a win, the crowd were hoping for a good contest, and the visitors? Well, they were hoping for a miracle.
Sri Lanka were completely and utterly trounced in a game many had predicted them to lose, but not so in the utterly shambolic and dismal way they did.
Steep, sharp tennis-ball bounce has always been a worry for most subcontinent batsmen, but Sri Lanka’s batting was so woeful it appeared as though they were trying to score runs on Mars.
Australia deserved every bit of this victory, so comprehensive was their performance, but they should also know that there are still selection issues to iron out before they can really say that they’ve left this summer’s demons behind them.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Sri Lanka needed a solid start to stamp their authority in this match.
It never came.
Patrick Cummins, along with his noble allies Mitchell Starc and young debutant Jhye Richardson, scythed through the brittle Sri Lankan batting order, their bouncer barrage and lethal pace proving too much for the visitors.
Sri Lanka were skittled for a dismal 144 in the first innings, the only ray of hope being their enigmatic wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella.
The youngster played an enterprising knock of 64 featuring a range of innovative white-ball shots such as the Dil-scoop and the upper cut, providing some brief entertainment to an otherwise depressing performance with the bat from the Lankans.
Australia leapfrogged Sri Lanka’s first innings score only two wickets down and marched on to 323.
Given how pedestrian the tourists’ bowling attack was, it was surprising that they didn’t cash in and score more.
Nonetheless, a defiant and risk-free partnership of 166 between Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne put Australia in a near invincible position as Sri Lankan heads dropped with the sapping heat.
Perhaps the only real worry for Australia would be Usman Khawaja, whose batting form has fallen away sharply this summer.
Dismissed for just 11 runs, Khawaja attempted to cut a Dilruwan Perera slider from around the wicket which wasn’t there for it, and chopped on.
Much like his rearranged stumps, Khawaja’s mind seemed elsewhere, and there may be a cloud hanging over him again when selection time comes for the World Cup and the Ashes.
Lankan paceman Suranga Lakmal bowled courageously with a depleted bowling attack to pick up his first five-for in Australia.
It was valiant effort given that both Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera sustained injuries and he was left with just Dilruwan Perera and part-timers Dananjaya de Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne for support.
Australia could have been dismissed for a lot less if Lakmal did not have to carry the entire bowling attack on his shoulders.
Batting under lights is never easy, and the Lankans needed a solid performance in their second innings to overcome the 179-run deficit if they were to make Australia bat again.
Dimuth Karunaratne was dismissed off the last ball of the second day by Cummins, and it basically summed up the theme of his Test match. Pure Australian dominance.
Sri Lanka would not even make it to the end of day three, as they were bundled out for an embarrassing 139, with not a single batsman getting above 32, which was the individual score of their second dig.
Cummins was magnificent once again, picking up ten wickets for the game and was awarded the rightful player of the match.
The Sri Lankans just had no answer to his accuracy, pace and frightening bounce, often playing too tentatively or too impatiently.
They will need to regroup before the Canberra Test, or else an all-too familiar score-line will emerge at the conclusion of this low-key series. As they say, hope is a beautiful thing.