Veteran spinner Rangana Herath grabbed a five-wicket haul to help Sri Lanka stun top-ranked Australia by 106 runs
on the fifth and final day of the first Test in Pallekele today.
A hamstrung Steve O’Keefe and Peter Nevill tried to delay in the inevitable with nearly 30 overs of dogged resistance but could not deny Sri Lanka only their second test win over Australia which put the hosts 1-0 up in the three-match series.
Chasing 268 runs for victory, Australia eventually folded for 161 in Steve Smith’s first loss as their test captain.
It was a remarkable win for Sri Lanka, who were shot out for 117 in the first innings and were reeling at six for two in the second before Kusal Mendis made an epic 176, which earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Herath, who claimed 4-49 in the first innings, took 5-54 in the second and fittingly sealed the win by bowling O’Keefe towards the end of the afternoon session.
The weather-hit match got off to another delayed start following steady morning drizzle and Sri Lanka attacked with spin from both ends to unsettle the visitors who resumed on 83 for three.
Herath ripped the heart out of Australia’s middle order with three telling strikes in the morning session.
The left-arm spinner sent back Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh before dealing the biggest blow when he trapped Smith lbw to end the Australian captain’s spirited resistance.
Smith hit just one boundary in his gritty 55 which was only the second 50-plus score in the bowler-dominated match.
O’Keefe and Nevill, aided by luck and home captain Angelo Mathews’ struggle with reviews, blocked everything, frustrating the hosts in a partnership that lasted 29.4 overs and yielded only four runs.
The second test starts in Galle on Thursday.