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Cricket news - Bullish Burns, Head take Sri Lanka to the cleaners

Joe Burns and Travis Head put on a massive 308-run stand

"It feels like a One-Day game!"

That comment from Michael Hussey on air encapsulates the opening day of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. Not that sub-continent teams haven't known such days Down Under - there certainly have been worse - but it all felt too new after India recently blazed the trail, showing the world how to really bowl to Australia in Australia. And Sri Lanka were anything but that. The hosts scored at over 4.5 runs per over for majority of the day at the Manuka Oval, piling on 384 for 4 by stumps on Day 1. Central to the effort was a massive 308-run stand between Joe Burns and Travis Head, both of whom went on to rack up Test hundreds and then some.

Burns scored Australia's first century of the summer and staked greater claims for an Ashes berth later this year. Head batted superbly at the other end, growing into his innings by the minute and overtaking Burns en route to his maiden hundred in Test cricket. He was finally out on 161, having lost his wicket to a full and straight ball from Vishwa Fernando. Burns, on the other hand, was unbeaten on 172 at stumps, having registered his highest Test score.

The bullish scoring rate, hovering just under five, wasn't the only thing that stood out about that partnership. The fact that it came after Sri Lanka had picked three early wickets with the new Kookaburra ball made it all the more special. In the absence of Suranga Lakmal, who was ruled out due to a back injury, left-arm seamer Fernando stoop up, ensuring that Australia don't rattle the visitors' new-look bowling attack right away. He got the ball to swing in overcast conditions, and picked Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja in consecutive overs. It must be said that both wickets came off poor shots: both batsmen edged wide swinging deliveries, the kind you leave in the first half hour of a Test match.

Chamika Karunaratne dealt the third blow with the new ball for Sri Lanka. On debut, Karunaratne got the ball to nibble outside off-stump and fired back Marnus Labuschagne's outside edge. But that was it from the 22-year-old right-arm seamer, who conceded runs at over six right through the day. Fernando too looked ineffective with the old ball, and gave away runs at 4.95 as Sri Lanka failed to strike for all of the second session. Even after Tea, the duo scored at quick rate, racking up 86 runs in less than 14 overs.

Kasun Rajitha, Sri Lanka's pro tem bowling leader, could have had a wicket but Dilruwan Perera put down Head on 87 in the slips. Head was dropped on 155 again, when Dhananjayade Silva failed to grab hold of an easy return catch. Quite karmically, Kurtis Patterson was dropped off his bowling first-ball at short leg. Burns also had a reprieve early in his innings, when de Silva reacted late at slip and failed to grab hold of a Dilruwan Perera delivery steered straight at him. To sum it up, Sri Lanka weren't good in the field when wickets were hard to come by on a very flat deck.

The visitors were good with the new ball but hit a shorter length with the old, meaning Australia could score freely with the cut and pull shots. The lengths were fuller again after Lunch but with nothing on offer from the pitch by then, that plan failed too. And with no reverse swing on offer and the rampant inexperience in their bowling line-up, Sri Lanka found life difficult against a hurting Australian side that's striving hard to make something of this bit of summer cricket.

Brief scores: Australia 384/4 in 87 overs (Burns 172*, Head 161; Fernando 3-99) vs Sri Lanka.

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