Johnson fast-tracks Australia
A brilliant display of pace bowling allowed Australia to assume control of their second Test with Sri Lanka on its opening day in Melbourne.
Asked to bowl first in the traditional Boxing Day encounter, Michael Clarke’s men skittled the visitors for 156 midway through the afternoon session before closing just six runs shy of that total for the loss of three wickets.
A reinvigorated Mitchell Johnson was the standout performer in the Baggy Green, with the often-maligned paceman taking 4-63 and receiving able support from Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon and international debutant Jackson Bird, who each claimed two wickets.
David Warner then smashed a 46-ball 62 to get the hosts going in their pursuit of a first-innings lead that now looks a certainty.
Australia’s pace attack got a bit of movement out of the pitch during the first session, but Sri Lanka were let down by a series of poor shots and Kumar Sangakkara was their only batsman to look comfortable. That was until Johnson removed the veteran for 58.
Sangakkara had not played a false shot all day in becoming the 11th player to register 10,000 Test runs, but was tempted into hooking and top-edged over Matthew Wade's head before the wicketkeeper sprinted more than 30 metres to pull off a terrific catch.
Sangakkara's patience at the crease and ability to punish anything loose was the only highlight of a poor batting performance from the tourists, as questionable shot selection led to many of his team-mates' demise.
Dimuth Karunaratne edged Bird, who shared the new ball with Johnson, behind and the usually reliable Tillakaratne Dilshan produced the worst shot of the day when playing on aiming a wild swipe at Johnson.
Siddle had Mahela Jayawardene caught behind and Angelo Mathews held at slip either side of lunch, while Thilan Samaraweera top-edged a pull to midwicket to give Bird his second wicket.
Prasanna Jayawardene’s 24 gave Sri Lanka some hope, but when he gloved a beauty from Johnson to third slip and Dhammika Prasad was caught behind next ball the tourists were 134 for seven.
Sangakkara fell in Johnson’s next over, to be the his 200th Test wicket, before Lyon snared tailenders Rangana Herath and Chanaka Welegedara in the same over, the latter for nought.
Warner and Ed Cowan soon put on 95 until the former was held at midwicket off Mathews. Phil Hughes then paid for ball-watching at the non-striker’s end and was comfortably run out by Dilshan from midwicket. Next over Prasad had Cowan caught at second slip for 36.
Shane Watson was reprieved on five when wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene shelled a right-handed chance off Welegedara. That allowed him and Clarke, who had passed a late fitness test on a hamstring to reach stumps on 13 and 20 respectively.
There was further misery to come for Sri Lanka, with X-rays showing that Prasanna Jayawardene had suffered a fractured thumb when being dismissed by Johnson.