GALLE, SRI LANKA - JULY 08: Australian batsmen Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith run between wickets during day one of the Second Test in the series between Sri Lanka and Australia at Galle International Stadium on July 08, 2022 in Galle, Sri Lanka. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka will be scratching their heads yet again as the visitors continued to place their foot firmly on the accelerator pedal in a day that was completely subjugated to Australia’s batting prowess, finishing on five for 298.

After going over 18 months without a Test century to his name, Steve Smith finally broke the drought and brought up his 28th ton in fine style, acknowledging his teammates and coaching staff for their support during his extended lean patch.

It was a classic Smith innings with all the mannerisms and unorthodox shots that cricket fans had grown to love, or loathe, over the years. He was calm, assured and in total control of his batting – unfazed by Sri Lanka’s three-pronged spin attack that failed to make consistent inroads to thwart Australia’s run-fest in Galle.

The inexperience and dearth in Sri Lana’s spin stocks showed. Ramesh Mendis and debutants Prabath Jayasuriya and Maheesh Theekshana erred on both line and length whilst being unable to contain and apply consistent pressure on the Australians who scored freely on both sides of the wicket.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite the pitch taking considerable turn even for day one, Sri Lanka’s tweakers did not capitalise consistently enough on the spin-friendly surface, often bowling too full or dragging it down the legside, which Smith and Labuschagne cashed in on for scoring opportunities.

Labuschagne also hit his maiden Test ton in Asia and did so in rather subdued fashion, but the relief on his face was apparent. Prior to this knock he hadn’t made much of an impact on this tour.

Both his batting and bowling in the white-ball leg of the Sri Lanka series were relatively quiet compared to what he is capable of in the Test arena, but in Galle, he did not disappoint.

Nudging a cheeky single off Jayasuriya to mid-on, Labuschagne kissed the badge on his helmet and proudly held it and his bat aloft as he achieved yet another important milestone in his career. Test tons in foreign countries, especially Asia, are difficult to come by and Labuschagne now had one to his name. His previous best was 90 against Pakistan in Rawalpindi earlier this year.

Embed from Getty Images

When asked about the state of the pitch, Labuschagne was wary of the volatile nature of the surface. "Every time you were defending, you felt like one was going to explode or beat your outside edge or take your outside edge," 28-year-old said.

Both Sri Lanka and Australia surprised everyone earlier in the day when they announced their final team selections prior to the start of the second Test. Any rumours of Glenn Maxwell batting at number eight were quickly abated as Cummins announced an unchanged team ahead of day one. The excitement around 19-year-old prodigy Dunith Welallage potentially getting his Test debut for Sri Lanka were also quelled as the home team went full left-field and handed debuts to all-rounders Kamindu Mendis, white-ball spinner Maheesh Theekshana and specialist left-arm tweaker Prabath Jayasuriya.

Sri Lanka had reason to hope and believe in the morning session, dismissing Khawaja and Warner early to have Australia in slight spot of bother at two for 70 after 22 overs. Jayasuriya was the pick of Sri Lanka’s bowlers, collecting three wickets in his Test debut including the key scalp of Labuschagne who eventually fell for 104. Dismissing Travis Head and Cameron Green cheaply late in the day allowed Sri Lanka to bring themselves somewhat back into the game, but the Smith-Labuschagne party had already done significant damage.

With Steve Smith still unbeaten on 109 heading into day two, Sri Lanka can expect another arduous day in the field unless they can roll over Australia’s tail quickly before lunch to prevent the visitors’ first innings score from ballooning out of control.

Wicketkeeper Alex Carey is the last of Australia’s recognised batsmen, before it’s Cummins and the bowlers.

However, with the return of Steve Smith looming larger, stronger and more confident than ever, Sri Lanka will have their work out before they’re potentially batted out of the game.