SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08: Nathan Lyon of Australia appeals successfully for the wicket of Moeen Ali of England during day five of the Fifth Test match in the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 8, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Nathan Lyon showed all his class in an emphatic display of cryptic finger spin that derailed Sri Lanka’s first innings in a messy first day of the two-Test series between Australia and Sri Lanka in Galle.

It was at this very ground where Nathan Lyon played his debut Test, taking the prize scalp of Kumar Sangakkara off his very first ball and now over 11 years later the right arm tweaker was wreaking havoc once again at the Galle International Stadium.

Finishing the day with figures of 5 for 90, Lyon climbed further into the upper echelons of highest wicket-takers in Test cricket, overtaking the great Sir Richard Hadlee to sit at 432.

By the end of this brief Test series, he could overtake Rangana Herath, Kapil Dev and Dale Steyn’s tally, meaning that he will become just the third Australian to sit inside the top ten all-time Test match wicket-takers.

After winning the toss and electing to bat, Sri Lanka made a watchful and guarded start.

Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne and 23-year-old opener Pathum Nissanka did well to navigate the initial burst of pace from Australia, leaving anything outside the off-stump and looking to press forward to blunt any inswing.

However, Nissanka was dismissed in 13th over, as he went for a poke at a back-of-a-length delivery from Cummins, resulting in a thick outside edge which wicketkeeper Alex Carey snaffled gleefully.

Kusal Mendis departed for just three runs as his brief 15-ball vigil was ended by Mitchell Starc, as he angled one across the right-hander’s body who went for a loose drive, with Carey claiming his second catch of the day.

At 2 for 42, Sri Lanka were looking wobbly however they made it to lunch without losing another wicket. With Karunaratne still at the crease, the home team still had a chance to arrest the momentum their way if the captain was able to stick around.

He couldn’t. Straight after lunch, Lyon had begun to spin a web around Sri Lanka and accounted for the key wicket of Dimuth Karunaratne.

The Sri Lanka captain played one onto his pads after getting a thick inside edge which Warner caught, diving full-length to his left at gully to leave the home side in tatters at three for 74. Any chance of a fightback were fading fast now unless Mathews or Chandimal could hold the fort and see out the day for Sri Lanka, but it wasn’t to be.

Dhananjaya De Silva came and went, falling to a beautiful leg break from Mitchell Swepson that would have made Shane Warne proud.

Australia A v England Lions
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 11: Australia A's Mitch Swepson during the Tour Match between Australia A and England Lions at Ian Healy Oval, on December 11, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Peter Wallis/Getty Images)

Spinning and dipping into the rough before turning it across the right hander, De Silva went for a forward defence that feathered the faintest of outside edges, which Carey claimed to take his third caught-behind of the match.

Sri Lanka veteran Dinesh Chandimal was dismissed in near-identical fashion off the very next ball, leaving Swepson on hat-trick and the home team in complete disarray. At 5 for 97 and a long tail to come, Sri Lanka’s hopes of lasting out the whole day were looking slimmer by the minute.

Perhaps their only ray of hope was the batting of Niroshan Dickwella, who played admirably for the Sri Lankans and top-scored with a blistering 58 off just 59 balls.

He combated the spin threat of Lyon well, playing a lot of checked drives and unfurling the sweep shot to unsettle the offspinner’s length.

However Dickwella soon became Lyon’s fourth wicket of the day, playing yet another sweep shot that was neatly and efficiently caught behind. With that went Sri Lanka’s chances of piling on a respectable first innings score, and they were bundled out for 212 just seven overs after tea.

Australia began their reply in aggressive fashion, with Warner taking a liking to the bowling of Sri Lanka’s only pace bowler for the match, Asitha Fernando.

He was taken off after just one over, meaning that until the end of the day’s play Sri Lanka were now opting for a full spin bowling attack. It certainly did not halt the flow of Usman Khawaja, who has been prolific with scoring runs in the subcontinent, finishing the day not out on 47.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 06: Usman Khawaja of Australia celebrates his century during day two of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 06, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Warner and Labuschagne soon fell cheaply to the offspin of Ramesh Mendis, leaving Sri Lanka with a slight positive as Australia were in a small spot of bother at 2 for 75.

Steve Smith was involved in a horrible mix-up with Usman Khawaja, getting absolutely burned in a chaotic run out that left him glaring at his batting partner as he departed for just six runs.

However, Khawaja safely negotiated the rest of the day and ensured there would be no more hiccups, as the Aussies completed day one in total command at three for 98 in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings score trailing by just 114 runs.