Sri Lanka completed a rare 3-0 sweep over Australia after left-arm spinner Rangana Herath spun the hosts to a comprehensive 163-run victory in the final Test in Colombo on Wednesday (August 17).
Chasing 324 in a bid to salvage some pride, Australia surrendered to Herath’s guile and folded for 160 before tea to lose their number one ranking to India and slip to third place behind Pakistan.
Herath (7-64) claimed a 13-wicket match haul to bag the man-of-the-match award while his 28 wickets from three Tests also made him the obvious choice for the man-of-the-series award.
“What a fantastic moment,” home captain Angelo Mathews said after lifting the Warne-Muralitharan trophy.
“Credit to Herath, for doing his thing. You just can’t keep him away from the game.
“He had a groin strain, he couldn’t run, he couldn’t jump. He was fantastic with one leg. One leg was enough for him to have a bowl on this type of wicket.”
Sri Lanka batted for 4.3 overs in the morning to add 35 runs to their overnight score of 312 for eight before declaring.
Set an improbable victory target on a final day track, Australia needed a good start and the tourists got that from David Warner and Shaun Marsh who raised 77 runs, the highest opening partnership in the low-scoring series.
Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera dismissed Marsh for 23 when the batsman defended a delivery and Kusal Mendis thrust out his hands at forward short leg to parry the ball and twisted his body backwards to complete a stunning catch.
Warner brought up his first 50 of the series after lunch before the wheels came off Australia’s challenge with Herath striking a double blow in his 10th over.
The wily left-arm spinner bowled rival skipper Steve Smith (8) for the fifth time in six innings with the first delivery of the over and trapped Adam Voges leg-before with the last.
Perera cut short Warner’s fluent innings at 68, bowling the southpaw around his legs in a dismissal that was a microcosm of the series in which the Sri Lankan spinners tormented the touring batsmen on tracks that suited them.
After Moises Henriques ran himself out, Herath mowed down the Australian lower order to complete the whitewash.
“It’s been a tough series,” Smith said after Australia exposed their spin frailties and slumped to their ninth consecutive Test defeat in Asia.
“We’ve been outplayed in all three matches in this series. I think Sri Lanka have played some great cricket over this series. Disappointing but a big learning curve for the guys as well.”
The teams will now compete in a five-match one-day series beginning in Colombo on Sunday.