Fast bowler Mitchell Starc picked up his second five-wicket haul in the match to lead Australia to a comprehensive 366-run victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka and a 2-0 series win at Manuka Oval on Monday.
Chasing an improbable 516 for victory, the tourists were shot out for 149 by Australia, who won the opening Test in Brisbane by an innings and 40 runs.
The series win against Sri Lanka was the first for Australia since they thrashed England 4-0 in the Ashes early last year.
“It’s nice to get some reward. I’ve said all summer this group has been working really hard,” Australia captain Tim Paine said after the win.
“I think we’re starting to build towards something so it’s great to get some reward for the work we’ve been putting in.
“It doesn’t matter what the wicket is like or who you are playing against.”
Left-arm quick Starc bowled with the same aggression and pace that earned him a five-wicket haul in the first innings to finish with 5-46 and only his second match haul of 10 wickets.
Starc’s only other 10-wicket haul in a match was also against Sri Lanka when he took 11-94 in a 2016 Test in Galle.
Man of the match Starc began the day adding the wickets of opener Dimuth Karunaratne and Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal to his tally.
The paceman got a fast delivery to cut back into Karunaratne, who failed to add to his overnight score of eight, and breached his defence clipping the leg bail.
Chandimal was out for four when he guided Starc straight into the hands of Marnus Labuschagne at slip which ended a dismal tour for the right-hander, who aggregated 24 runs from four innings.
“We were outplayed as a team in all three departments,” a dejected Chandimal, who said he was disappointed with his own performance, told reporters. “Credit goes to Australia, they have played some outstanding cricket throughout the series.
“We need to work harder… specially as a batting unit we have to step up. That’s the one are we are concerned about.”
Sri Lanka promoted Niroshan Dickwella, who had made an attacking 64 in Brisbane, and he and opener Lahiru Thirimanne added 30 for the third wicket.
A sharply climbing delivery from Pat Cummins ended Thirimanne’s knock of 30 when the fast bowler sprinted forward to take a diving return catch inches off the ground.
Starc returned for his second spell to dismiss Dickwella (27) and Kusal Perera, who was cleared to bat on Monday after being hit on the helmet by a bouncer on the third morning, in successive deliveries to take his match haul to nine.
Dhananjaya de Silva kept out the hat-trick delivery but fell right after the lunch interval to Jhye Richardson, spooning a catch to the mid-on fielder.
Kusal Mendis and Chamika Karunaratne stalled Australia’s victory march with a seventh-wicket stand of 46 before the former found the fielder at cover with an uppish drive against leg-spinner Labuschagne.
Mendis fell for 42 while Chamika edged Cummins to be out for 22 as Australia inched closer to victory.
Paine brought Starc back to give him a chance to complete his 10-wicket haul and the quick bowled out Vishwa Fernando to complete the mark.
Cummins finished with 3-15 and was adjudged player of the series for his haul of 14 wickets from the two Tests.
Cummins earns rich praise from Paine
Paine paid a glowing tribute to Cummins for his player of the series effort against Sri Lanka, calling him one of the best quicks in the world despite being the first change bowler for his side.
That performance took his tally after 19 Tests ahead of former Australian pace greats like Dennis Lillee, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee. He added four more at Manuka Oval to reach 94 wickets at an average of 22.
Having previously faced South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and India’s Jasprit Bumrah and with James Anderson coming up during the Ashes in England, Paine felt Cummins’ job was tougher.
“He’s got to be pretty close to it, isn’t he?” Paine said when asked if he had the best fast bowler in his team. “I suppose the difference with Pat and those guys is he doesn’t take the new ball.
“He bowls probably at times when the ball is not doing as much and the wicket’s a bit flatter. His ability to just get it done in all conditions, whether it’s moving around or not, is second to none.”
Cummins, who has been ravaged by multiple injuries since he made his debut as an 18-year-old in 2011, is now Australia’s best bowler on the ICC Test rankings, ranked third behind Rabada and Anderson.
“I felt as the summer went on, he actually got better and better,” Paine added.
“The more he bowled it felt like the quicker he was bowling and the more accurate he was bowling. He’s right up there.”
While Cummins’ rise has been spectacular during Australia’s home summer, his pace bowling partner Mitchell Starc’s form nosedived.
Coming to the last Test before this year’s Ashes, the left-arm quick had picked up just 15 wickets from five matches and often sprayed the ball around even on helpful surfaces.
Former Australia cricketers had called for the new ball to be take away from Starc and given to Cummins, but Paine had showed faith in his pace spearhead.
Starc rewarded his captain with a haul of 10 wickets in Canberra and a man-of-the-match winning performance.
Paine said Starc’s problems were mostly in his head.
“I’m proud of the way our boys rallied around Starcy,” Paine said. “Even when he wasn’t at his best I kept reminding him how important he is to our team and how we think he’s one of the best bowlers in the world.
“Eventually we got through to him. I thought he bowled superbly in this game.”