Smith ends Test drought as Australia make strong start against Covid-impacted Sri Lanka

By Sports Desk July 08, 2022

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne brought up centuries – the former ending a 16-month Test drought – as Australia made a terrific start to the second Test in Sri Lanka on Friday.

Smith (109 not out) reached his first Test hundred since scoring 131 against India in January 2021 shortly before stumps on day one, after Labuschagne (104) had driven Australia into a strong position against the COVID-19-impacted hosts.

Three late wickets from debutant Prabath Jayasuriya (3-90) only partially stemmed the tourists' momentum, with Sri Lanka – who have lost three players to COVID-19 since a crushing first Test defeat - toiling as Australia reached 298-5.

Looking to win four successive Tests against Sri Lanka for the first time since 2004, Australia were led to a solid start by the in-form Usman Khawaja.

Having averaged 117 in 2022 ahead of this contest, Khawaja helped the tourists recover from the early loss of David Warner (5) before being felled by a beauty from Ramesh Mendis shortly before lunch for 37..

Labuschagne took centre stage thereafter, going from strength to strength after Niroshan Dickwella missed the chance to stump him for 28 as he racked up his first away Test hundred.

The 28-year-old's innings represented his seventh Test ton and saw him dovetail brilliantly with Smith – the duo recording their seventh century partnership in just 21 innings - before Dickwella took his second opportunity to stump Labuschagne in the 59th over, after Australia had reached 204-2.

Sri Lanka stepped things up after tea as Jayasuriya added the wickets of Travis Head (12) and Cameron Green (4), but Smith evaded the attack before bringing up his ton with a fine four and will be back at the crease on Saturday.

Labuschagne and Smith drive Aussies forward

Only Joe Root (14) has more Test centuries than Labuschagne since his October 2018 debut after his terrific knock silenced the home crowd.

But if that was good, Australia saved the best until last with Smith's long awaited hundred.

His 28th Test ton was his first in 16 innings and just his second in the red-ball game since the 2019 Ashes, and the former skipper will be hopeful of adding to his tally and taking the tourists beyond 400 after surviving the hosts' late rally.

Out-of-sorts Sri Lanka struggle again 

With bowlers Asitha Fernando and Jeffrey Vandersay among those sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, Sri Lanka struggled to make headway on a difficult first day.

Having lost three of their five Tests in 2022, Sri Lanka look hard-pushed to stop the tourists after Labuschagne and Smith's day-one heroics. 

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