Yesterday I predicted that the third and final Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Colombo was poised for an exciting finish on the last day with either team capable of winning and the result possibly going down to the wire at the end of the final day’s play. The final result, though, was that by the mid afternoon, Sri Lanka had won easily by 163 runs.
As expected, the Sri Lankans continued to bat in the morning but their captain was aided in his declaration decision by his overnight batters adding a rapid-fire 35 runs in less than five overs, enabling him to declare the innings closed at 347, leaving the Australians a target of 324 runs to win in about 85 overs, a difficult but not impossible task for a team of that quality. But although they got off to a good start with the openers making 76 runs in 21 overs, they then suffered another one of their collapses, losing all their wickets for another 84 runs in just 23 overs.
So Sri Lanka won the series 3-0 but I think that that result vastly overstates the difference between the two teams. Sri Lanka was not that good and Australia was not that much worse. Both teams produced good bowling, with fast bowler Mitchell Starc being outstanding for the Australians and spinner Rangana Herath, one of the most modest and self-effacing players in the game, being equally good for the Sri Lankans. Both teams demonstrated brittle and erratic batting. The big difference was that Sri Lanka for all but the first innings in the first Test was able to produce one or two good batting performances per innings that saved the day for them, while the Australians did not. So Sri Lanka should not be too complacent while Australian batters definitely need to work on improving their playing of spin bowling.
As a result of their loss Australia slips to joint third place with England in the Test rankings, with India moving to the top and Pakistan second. But Pakistan could seize the top ranking depending on how India performs in the fourth Test against West Indies. But apart from the bragging rights that come with being #1, India, Pakistan, Australia, and England are effectively too close to each other for any one to be considered definitively better than the others. Sri Lanka moved up one spot to sixth place, displacing South Africa.