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Stunned Smith searching for positives

AAP logoAAP 17/08/2016 Will Knight

Australia had lost one Test to Sri Lanka in 33 years, but after losing three in just over three weeks, Steve Smith was asked how it all went so wrong.

"There aren't too many positives really," said a despondent Smith after the 163-run third-Test hammering in Colombo on Wednesday that sealed the 3-0 series whitewash.

"I can't fault our quicks, I thought they did a great job, particularly Mitchell Starc.

"But our batters and spinners are the ones who had to step up and we haven't been able to do that."

And that was the theme of the tour failure - Australia's struggle to make enough runs against Sri Lanka's crafty slow bowlers in typically dry subcontinental conditions but also their own spinners' inability to extract enough life from the same wickets.

The fact that man-of-the-series Rangana Herath took 28 wickets at 12.75 compared to Australia's frontline spinner Nathan Lyon's 16 at 31.93 is evidence the visitors were outbowled.

The fact Herath, batting at No.9, made more runs than Adam Voges, Peter Nevill, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns - and not many fewer than David Warner and Mitch Marsh - illustrates how poor Australia's batting was.

The series result was as emphatic as it was unexpected.

The day before the first Test in Kandy, Smith was presented with the ICC Test championship mace as the No.1-ranked team.

After 34.2 overs of the series, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 117 and by stumps the tourists had consolidated at 2-66.

The No.7-ranked team, who had come off a win-less tour of England and with a raw side that included two debutants, were copping the belting that most expected.

But 22 days later, Sri Lanka had humiliated Australia 3-0.

Smith reflected ruefully on the second and third days at Palekelle when momentum shifted and they didn't arrest it until the series was lost in Galle.

"Yeah that was a great opportunity for us," said Smith after Australia only banked an 86-run lead and then Kusal Mendis' brilliant 176 set up Sri Lanka's 106-run victory.

"Since then, I guess we haven't really fought our way back."

Australia were thrashed in the second Test in Galle, but opportunities went begging in Colombo for Australia to end their streak of eight straight losses in Asia.

They had Sri Lanka 5-26 inside the first 90 minutes, but Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal's record 211-run partnership thwarted their charge.

Then Smith (119) and Shaun Marsh (130) fought back, setting the platform for a significant first-innings lead at 1-267 in reply to 355 but another batting collapse meant they only managed a 23-run advantage.

Set 324 for victory, another batting capitulation when they lost 10-83 after cruising at 0-77 typified their tour.

Of course 38-year-old Herath was at the forefront, taking 7-64 with a groin injury.

"The batsmen were having a nightmare facing him," said Sri Lanka's captain Angelo Mathews.

"He's been wonderful."

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