Aussies Ward off Sri Lanka


by Andrew Gigacz

The inevitability of Australia taking the last five wickets and taking a 1-0 lead against Sri Lanka was delayed by several events.


Firstly by another almost inevitable occurrence, morning rain in Galle, after just a few minutes of play. Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews had time only to take the score to 5/126 and reduce the unlikely target by six runs. For me, that wasn’t such a bad thing. Knowing that I was charged with capturing the day’s events for the Almanac, I’d been somewhat cheeky and headed off to Idiot Stadium to see off Barry Hall, Ben Hudson and {sigh} Callan Ward.


By midway through that match I was beginning to wonder why I’d bothered. Two also-ran sides running around like two also-ran sides who couldn’t wait to get it all over with. Mistakes galore. And then the bloke in the next aisle decided to take umbrage at our gentle gibes at Callan Ward for taking the money and running. In the end it was the police who came close to deciding whether it was worth seeing the game out.


But that’s another story.


Arriving home I was greeted by the second reason for the delay of the inevitable. This one was slightly more palatable: the determination and grit Angelo and Mahela. After the rain had cleared Michael Clarke turned to Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson to try and break the stand.


Ryan Harris always seems to me to be just ambling in as a bowler. But he generates good pace and is solid and steady with his line and length. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big, big fan of line and length in Test cricket. Which is why Trent Copeland is already a potential favourite of mine. Johnson, on the other hand, amazes me when he strings more than a few balls in a row that hit the spot. It’s a testament to something, but certainly not his slinging action.


I’m glad that Michael Clarke recognises this and chose to open the innings with Harris and Copeland. While not a big wicket-taker in this match, his metronomic method builds pressure which in turn helps the bowler at the other end. Just ask SK Warne how much he appreciated bowling in tandem with Glenn McGrath.


Not that Johnson doesn’t have a part to play. He had Jayawardene jumping around at times and has the pace to wreak havoc when he gets things right.


Jayawardene and Mathews showed immense concentration throughout the middle session, working the ball around and putting the odd bad ball away. But the general consensus amongst the commentary was the once the partnership was broken , the match would be wrapped up pretty quickly.


And so it proved. But not before Mahela clocked up a ton, and took Sri Lanka through to 210. At that point Sri Lanka were 169 away from an unlikely victory. I was beginning to wonder if they could go all the way.


But Harris got one to nip back through Jayawardene’s gate. (Had he got a slightly thicker inside edge it would have been another boundary) But that was the end of that really. Randiv, who, coming in at number 8, demonstrated the lack of depth in Sri Lanka’s tail, never looked the part and left the field with a duck to his name.


At 7/221 it became a matter of seeing whether Angelo Mathews could eke out his first Test hundred. With a highest score of 99, no-one was going to begrudge him getting one.


But as the wickets tumbled, Mathews, on 95 tried to get across the line with a windy woof against Watson. He missed.


Sri Lanka’s final total of 253 was perhaps more than most expected. But 200 hundred of those were scored by Jayawardene and Mathews. Without them it could have been disastrous.


So what do we take from this match? Is this the beginning of the renaissance of Australian Test cricket? It could be, but one mustn’t forget that Sri Lanka, one day Word Cup champions, have failed to win a Test since Murali moved on. On the other hand, it’s true that you can do no more than beat the opposition that confronts you, and Australia did that.


I liked Clarke’s captaincy. I like that Ponting appears to have accepted his new role. I liked the accuracy of Copeland, Harris and Watson, and that they allow the luxury of having a time-bomb like Johnston in the attack. And Nathan Lyon could hardly have done more to impress, with loop, drop and turn.


But the wicket, while not quite a minefield, was a difficult one. A few more Tests under varying conditions will ultimately determine if this marque of the Australian team is building something special.


Batting-wise there were positive signs. Hussey and Ponting in the first innings, Clarke in the second. But what of the youth. The jury’s still out on Hughes but his second innings 28 was important. Marvin Vaas suspects Khawaja might have a weakness against swing. But for me the it was notable that he was the only batsman in the match who got past 20 twice. I think that says a lot of good things about his temperament, such an important thing in the five-day game.


Like AFL Round 24, it was always going to be doubtful that many questions would be answered in this First Test. But for Australia, there are undoubtedly some positive signs. I can see a few of these guys hanging around in the Australian side for quite some time. Unlike Callan Ward.


About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Dave Goodwin says

    Nice piece of writing Gigs. Good analysis in the wrap-up, with injections of passion (from the footy front moreso than the cricket). “Ward off” is about to enter the vernacular with a different meaning.

  2. Nice work Chaminda Gigs.

    Correct assessment to reserve assessment.

    Toss was important. Opposition questionable.

    Bowling line and length in Test cricket. What an astounding innovation!

    What would we do without coaches?

  3. With Ponting being absent from the next test, and/or possibly 2, does Marsh bat 3, or Kwahaja do as he did on debut, and return to first drop. Hughes; the jury must still be out on him. Since the series on the Veldt how many 50’s has he produced at test level? Questionable technique, unsure of mind set. As we saw in those first few tests when he fires he is very dangerous, a good quick scorer, but that’s been almost an abberation, as he has generally struggled in his career. Hope he proves me wrong. Bowling; Harris, Lyon, excelled, Copeland put in, and Johnson is our most experienced bowler; same 4 for Test 2? Any how winning form is good form, something we ‘ve not shown much of lately.

  4. How do you see Barry Hall’s future Gigs? Boxing perhaps? We haven’t had a quick bowling ‘enforcer’ since Thommo, Merv and Lenny Pascoe. What’s Barry’s action like Gigs? He’s fit, strong and his goal kicking gives every indication that he would be more accurate than that Queenslander Mitchell Johnson. One change for the Second Test for mine.

  5. Peter Flynn says

    Nice on Gigs.

    Copeland will need to acquire some tricks to survive long-term.

    I would give all the youngsters the rest of the series.

    They need a chance to shine.

  6. Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Glen, I reckon I’d go with Marsh at 3 and leave Khawaja.

    And I’d stick with the same 4 bowlers.

    Peter B, good question. Not sure if Bazza ever played cricket but if he did, he almost certainly would’ve been a menacing quick1

    Flynny, Copeland goes consistently at just under 125 km/h. What was McGrath’s usual pace?

    If Copeland can get just enough movement with the new ball, he could be quite potent. Otherwise you might be right.

  7. What would we do without coaches?

    Walk to the ground.

    And hello to you, Ian Chappell.

  8. Would’ve been a long walk from Glen Waverley station to VFL Park, Tony.

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