Australian batsmen battle on a dusty first day wicket

by Marvin Vaas

We arrive to a fully covered Galle International Stadium. It hosed down overnight. And there’s still some serious moisture in the air.

A number of our touring party break out in a muck lather. If we were racehorses parading in the Flemington mounting yard on Derby Day, you’d promptly rule a line through us.

We fork out 2000 rupee (about 18 Australian Oxfords) for five days of Test cricket. It could be misplaced optimism.

The vantage point and the ground are superb. We station ourselves square of the wicket in the Galle Cricket Club Pavilion. We are members and biryani will be served for lunch.

I reckon it’s a crucial toss to win. Clarke appears to say we’ll bat before the coin hits the bone-hard surface. The debutants have time to settle their nerves. Locals gather on top of the fort to view Watson and Hughes take guard and begin to guide Australia through the post-Katich era.

It’s imperative that Watson eradicates being dreamily dismissed between 30 and 50. Hughes needs to demonstrate a tighter technique and normal movement of his back leg.

Early doors, Watson scatters the congregating black birds with a series of signature straight-drive boundaries emanating from that pronounced front-foot plant.

Percy, a perennial fixture at Sri Lankan Test matches, voices his disapproval at his side’s lacklustre start with a verbal barrage that would make Mick Malthouse proud.

The Sri Lankans takes notice of Percy. After 30 minutes, Dilshan turns to spin with instant success. Watson nicks a decent nut from Herath that turns. The custodian takes a smart catch. As Cec Pepper would stammer, “you effing beauty one-for-bloody-none”.

Not long after Watson’s demise, Hughes gets a delivery that climbs off a good length. He nicks it to first slip. While it is recognised that he received a good ‘un, the Hughes technique again failed the demanding Test cricket examination.

At 2/36, and without the calming influence of Simon Katich, Australia finds itself in some peril. The old firm, Ponting and Clarke, safely steer the visitors to lunch without further loss. Clarke dances to the spinners like Kate Bush while Ponting seems intent on showing Watson how to craft a Test innings.

The pitch at the Fort End starts to play a few tricks. Maybe 300 could be a good first innings total.

A group of monks (what is the collective noun?) congregate on top of the fort and study Ponting’s precise footwork, both in attack and in defence. It’s an intriguing contest.

Out of nowhere, Clarke plays around a straight one from Herath and is very adjacent. A shame as Clarke’s innings promised much.

Also out of nowhere, Ponting becomes extremely shaky on 44. After attempting a couple of dinky upright sweeps, he holes out to deep mid-off. It is 4/112 as Khawaja walks purposely and seemingly calmly to the crease.

We have a TV monitor in front of us. Kumar Sangakkara appears in more advertisements than Izzy Dye and Greg Evans put together. Meanwhile, Percy saunters down to stir up the Waving the Flag contingent led by the indomitable cheerleader Luke Sparrow.

So often in Test matches, controversy erupts after a soporific period of play. At 4/126, Khawaja looks in LBW trouble. After an eternity, and probably some direct dressing-room guidance, Dilshan refers the decision to the third umpire. A hundred replays later prove conclusively not-out to LBW but probably out caught. The not-out decision riles the Sri Lankans.

At 4/132, the Sri Lankan mid-on fieldsman does a Daisy Thomas on Khawaja after he completes a tight single. The quickly convened Match Review Panel (MRP) in the Galle Cricket Club Pavilion adjudges the collision as intentional, medium impact and negligent. I have to admit, we really don’t know what criteria the MRP uses. Neither does the MRP.

Australia goes to tea on 5/157. As sometimes happens with young players, Khawaja is bowled on what turns out to be the final ball of the post-lunch session. While the pitch is starting to spin appreciably, it’s not Laker’s 1956 Manchester pitch.

In the final session, the quickies generate reverse swing. Hussey notches up a typically steely and stoic half-century. Haddin swings pendulously. And lives dangerously. Hussey brings up the 200 with an imperious Tom Mix.

Percy senses danger. He yells, “Sri Lanka we need a wicket otherwise it is not cricket”. He gets his wish. Haddin is caught in Sobers’ favourite fielding position for 24.

Wickets fall at regular intervals, although not as a direct consequence of the pitch. Harris shoulders arms and is fired LBW. Hussey, as well as he’s played, errs by not taking more of the strike during this period and fails to encourage Harris to refer the decision. We reckon Hussey is eyeing red ink.

Copeland impresses in his short innings of 12. His first delivery in Test cricket was a full bunger on leg stump. Putting Hussey’s contribution aside, the scorecard looks like an extended Tattslotto draw.

Hussey’s excellent innings ends on 95 and Australia finishes on 273.

All in all, this was an intriguing day of Test cricket. It’s hard to know who has the ascendancy. It depends on how well Sri Lanka bats against an inexperienced attack. Unfortunately, because of amateurish selection, Australia always seems to field an inexperienced attack.


  1. John Butler says

    Great work Marv

    Are we talking Wuthering Heights Kate? Or Bubushka Kate?

  2. Marvin, Welcome to the Almanac. Thanks for contacting us. How did you find us? Do you play cricket – I’m sure the Yarras would be after you. I can put you in touch with Gideon Haigh.

    Reading the match from my Northcote loungeroom (it’s no Nunawading) I’d say Nathan Lyon is now the single most important player in the Australian XI. How do you think he will handle this responsibility? And do you think the selectors considered this when naming the team?

    Does this look like a Hauritz track to you?

  3. Thanks Marvin. I am hoping Copeland can exploit some uneven bounce for some LBWs. as always, Johnson bowling straight would be a bonus. Hope Harris stays fit. Lots of maybes.
    Must be a great place to watch cricket?

  4. Marvin

    You didn’t bump into a florid looking chap belting out the Geelong theme song, by any chance, did you? Goes by the name of Flynn? Your article contains traces of Flynnish influences.

    The collective noun for monks is a Contemplation.

    Wonderful day of Test Cricket. TV highlight was Sri Lankan commentator Sharma’s interview of Australian umpire Simon Taufel. So much better than anything that most of the hacks at Nine could ever produce. (This was starkly illustrated when Sharma was replaced by T.Greig).

    Tell Flynny to wear something ostentatious so that we can play Spot the Reprobate on the box tonight.

  5. It’s a great pleasure to be involved in the Almanac for the first time.


    Wuthering Heights Kate.

    JTH and Crio,

    The local brew is Lion beer ironically enough. I used to play a bit of cricket here in Galle. Nimble on my feet to spin and used to love rocking back to within a micron of the stumps to play the pull. Gideon would extract copious spin out of this track.

    Can you believe that it now falls on Lyon’s debutant shoulders? It’s a Hauritz pitch. It’s a Warne (worn) pitch to boot. The locals reckon Sri Lanka will make 350. This could be one of the great Test matches.



  6. You’re a legend, Marvin.

    The collective noun for monks is a Contemplation.

  7. David Downer says

    Entertaining debut there MQWERTYUIOP Vaas.

    Looking forward to the hometown and initials set of Day 2’s “debutant” poster.

    A “Tom Mix”. Swish. Nuthin’ but net there Flyn… I mean Marvin


  8. David Downer says

    N.Lyon strikes with his first ball in Test Cricket

    T.Copeland strikes with his second ball in Test Cricket

    Cue: Wowee!

  9. Marvin,
    It’s amazing how commentators thought 273 too few. Pitch won’t get better. Thank God for neutral and 3rd umps.
    Sorry to here you have Lion Nathan beer…the flaw with Flemington racecourse.

  10. Bloody hell….
    Aussies 2 fa 13 in the second dig already.

    Not sure any pitch should be bringing up as much dust on Day 2
    as that one is today.

  11. Fat Lady’s already howlin, Magnificent Marvin. You’ve brought the best of Nunawading luck to Galle.

    The collective noun for monks is a Contemplation.

  12. Think you might end up with a couple of free days, Marvin.

    The collective noun for monks is a Contemplation.

  13. John Butler says

    Lyon 5-34

    Come back Andrew Hilditch, all is forgiven?

    Or more a testimony to the pitch?

  14. Marvin
    I got one word to say to you:
    The collective noun for monks is a Contemplation, by the way.

  15. pitch and????
    Seems whenever the ball swings or dies the batsmen are floundering. No doubt due to a diet of flat “bash” decks.

  16. Sri Lanka will not get these runs.

  17. Apologies for the repetitive posts. My earlier ones were blocked by the hitherto undetected Almanac Spam blocker. I thought I was being black-balled by the Almanac censors and was about to head off to the High Court. Another collective noun for monks is a Meditation.
    Johnson gone. World goes on.

Leave a Comment