Some new names could potentially be thrown onto the selection table for the first Test as Australia A cantered to a comfortable yet incredible win over Sri Lanka A in their second unofficial four-day game at Hambantota.
Chasing an unlikely 367 in the fourth innings, Australia A managed to reach the victory target with five wickets in hand.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Sri Lanka A posted a strong first innings score, declaring on 330 with Lahiru Udara, Nipun Dananjaya and Sahan Arachchige notching up fifties for the home side.
Dananjaya was unlucky to be dismissed being just eight runs shy of a century, as he feathered one from Boland to be caught behind. Steketee and Boland then rapidly commenced dismantling the Sri Lanka A batting line-up, sharing four wickets apiece.
In reply to Sri Lanka A’s first innings declaration, the visitors batted poorly, being bundled out for only 254.
As has been the looming weakness amongst of all Australia’s first-class batters currently on this Sri Lanka tour, spin bowling proved to be the main weapon of choice for the home side to assert a sizeable first innings lead.
Right-arm off-spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe was the chief destroyer for Sri Lanka A, collecting a five-wicket haul that accounted for the scalps of captain Marcus Harris, Josh Philippe and the upcoming Tanveer Sangha.
Pierson batted doggedly to remain not out on 67, as wickets continued to tumble around him. Manasinghe was ably supported by fast bowler Dilshan Madushanka and legspinner Suminda Lakshan, who both took the remaining wickets for Sri Lanka A.
Sri Lanka A looked to capitalise on their first-innings lead of 76 in their second dig, but a spirited and collective all-round bowling effort from Australia A restricted them to 290. Nipun Dananjaya continued on from his good form in Sri Lanka A’s first innings, top-scoring for the home side with 77.
Some late order cameos from Sahan Arachchige, Manasinghe and Suminda Lakshan propped up Sri Lanka to a respectable total, after they were looking wobbly at six for 99 in the second innings.
A chase of 367 in the fourth innings was always going to be a tall order for Australia A, given the plethora of spin options available for the opposition.
However, the Aussies appeared to unlock a new gear with their batting, as the little-known Henry Hunt and enterprising Jimmy Peirson notched up centuries to ensure that Australia A would gallop to victory.
It was an incredible feat given that Australia A was teetering 4 for 69 with Manasinghe running amok with his bamboozling off spin.
It creates some new selection headaches for Australia especially in the batting department for the upcoming series, and if not, certainly into the future, as the likes of Henry Hunt, Jimmy Peirson and even Aaron Hardie have shown that they can perform on spin-friendly wickets.
With Glen Maxwell now a lock-in for the first Test against Sri Lanka and with Usman Khawaja also flying in, it remains to be seen if one these three Australia A youngsters can also secure a spot in the Test team.