A T20 match with relevance

by Brendan McArdle

As a general rule the conservatives among us take a bit of convincing about the significance or otherwise of two T20 matches played immediately before a five match ODI series with three Test matches to follow. But without doubt the second of the Sri Lanka – Australia matches played on Monday was as exciting and relevant as any limited overs game the Aussies have played for some time.

Australia’s losing margin of eight runs looked moderately comfortable in the end, but along the way we were taken on a roller coaster of events that was both wildly fluctuating and highly skilful. The game contained brilliant batting from Mahele Jayawardene and Shane Watson, the most intelligent and skilful ‘team’ catch you could ever wish to see, and arguably the most impressive spell of spin bowling your columnist has ever seen in limited overs cricket.

Ajuna Mendis was not selected in the first of the T20s on Saturday, and had an unspectacular tour of England in June and July. Before that he was, inexplicably, one of four omissions from Sri Lanka’s losing World Cup final team after having played in its winning semi final against New Zealand and taking 3/35 – no doubt the sort of issue in Sri Lankan cricket which drove Kumar Sangakkara to say what he did in his MCC speech at Lord’s.

Mendis literally turned Monday’s game on its head with his spell of 6/16 ; from being 0/71 before even the 6th over was completed, Australia lost 4/4 with Mendis taking three of them. He disposed of the rampant Watson and David Warner, then totally bamboozled Shaun Marsh, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. Mind you, it’s not difficult to confuse Smith as he does a good job of outsmarting himself.

None of the Aussies seem to be able to pick him at the moment   –  he’s difficult to pick from behind on TV in slow motion !  –  but our boys have some homework to do. The reassuring thing is that the longer the form of the game the better the chances of unravelling his mysteries.

Nor is Mendis our only problem regarding spin bowling. His teammates bowl it better than our spinners do, and there are more of them  –  Xavier Doherty is the only specialist in our ODI squad. Our tactics have again been perplexing : we bowl 8 overs of spin, Sri Lanka bowls 15, and our pacemen get flailed around the park.

But not all is lost. Watson looks to be back to his awesome best and John Hastings has shown he belongs at the level. Plus the return of Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey should provide a reassuring boost in experience and class. Let’s hope so, or we could be in for a difficult 6 weeks.


  1. johnharms says:

    He is an interesting proposition is Mendis. Is he using the Iverson technique, or something else BM?

  2. Brendan
    Australia (in all formats) have struggled against quality spin for years now.
    The issue of not having enough decent spinners on the Australian domestic
    scene creates the problem that the batsmen do not get to improve their tecniques
    against decent tweakers regularly enough.
    It was good to see Cameron White finally break the shackles, but where oh
    where was Aaron Finch? Talk about a lack of continuity in selection !!

  3. John,
    Yes Mendis uses the Iverson or Gleeson grip of turning the ball out of the front of his hand with his fingers – very little wrist work. It makes him pretty accurate and quite fast, but I suppose it limits his amount of turn.
    He looks very difficult to pick, but I think in longer forms of the game batsmen everywhere seem to have a bit more success at working him out.
    He seems to be a confidence bowler, and the Aussies will work at eroding that in these ODIs so that by the time the Tests arrive he might even be a line-ball selection.


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