Dawdling Sri Lankans still a chance

I have played in cricket teams which lacked direction.

Ones where you sat around the dressing room comparing hangovers, and talking about Friday’s play in the Test match. Then wandered out to bat. Or sauntered out to field. No chat. No plans. No sense of where we were on the ladder.

But not many of them.

Usually there has been some sense of the season’s position, and the day’s prospects and strategy.

I do remember playing for Eudunda-Robertstown (we wore the green and gold, so I have, if you’re asking) in the Barossa and Light Cricket comp, when we had to beat Angaston at home and old J.L. Mosey (the man to have scored more runs than any other South Australian) said to my brother, David  (an into-the-wind opening bowler) we needed to get their champion, Milo, out cheaply.

“I’ll buy you a carton if you get Milo for a duck,” JL promised in the dark of the dressing room on a very hot day when no-one wanted to venture out to squint in the summer light. It was a near-breathless 38 degrees, and Milo was a rep batsman who knew when to blaze and when to accumulate. He was going to grind us into the parched paspalum.

David, who tended to be thirsty throughout his varsity career (and beyond), bowled these little in-dippers, and a breeze from third man was heaven for him. Not a wind, just the hint of a breeze. Because his in-dippers would often hit the seam and hold their own, a la Carl Rackemann (at half of Big Carl’s pace). The skipper (Frahmy, who drove a hotted up Escort, at a pace that nearly killed us going over a bridge on the Saddleworth road one afternoon heading to Riverton), after consultation with JL, my brother and me, set  a leg-slip, a single slip (me, where else on a hot day?), and two gullies, one for the edge which seemed to go wide off my brother’s bowling, and one for the squeeze from bat and pad.

In David’s first over he bowled innie (to hit off stump: defended); innie (to hit leg-stump: defended); straight one. Milo, drawn to the Aspro (shining in the mid-day sun), hung the bat out, got the faintest of touches, and Strat did the rest. We got through them. The following week, Frahmy belted a ton. I got 50. And they’re still writing about it. (Well I am)

There was far more planning that day than there was from the Sri Lankans on the fourth morning of the Third Test in Colombo. The key thing to remember is that they are 1-0 down in a home series against a team wracked by self-doubt.

Resuming at 6/428 on a flattish deck, the Sri Lankan batsmen meandered along. Angelo Mathews, who had been dismissed and left stranded in the nineties a couple of times before, was on 85.  Although quick runs and a dash at the Australian before lunch seemed the order of the day, they poked and prodded making the bowling appear more hostile than it really was. Siddle bowled with his trademark aggression (a la Big Merv on flat tracks) and Trent Copeland looked like he could bowl all day, just doing enough in the air (in) and off the seam (out) to cause concern. Thank God Haddin was standing back, after the fluke of yesterday’s up to the stumps catch and the embarrassment of the one he dropped where his head was high in the air and he looked genuinely clueless in technique.

Siddle, got one through Eranga. Herath was then LBW to the Victorian. And there was a crazy run out where the ball went through a series of sets of hands before the bails were removed. These dismissals occurred over a period where an enterprising side might have knocked up 60 or so.

This left Lakmal to help Mathews get to his hundred. It wasn’t quite K.J. Hughes and Clem, and the sequence of four dot balls, single on the fifth, and Lakmal surviving the last, was without pressure. It was a little like the Australians chipping the ball across half-back in the dying minutes.

Mathews finally charged Siddle, and lifted him over mid-off to bring up his maiden century.

Then Johnson snagged the No. 11. Had he dismissed the No. 10, Welegedara, he’d have snagged a batsman whose tally of initials outnumbered his tally of wickets in the series.

And so the Australian batsmen began the task of recovering the 156-run deficit. Watson fell to a Herath delivery which straightened down the line. Hughes punished anything wide in a Slater-esque second dig which gave confidence to nervous Australian supporters. Marsh was caught (I suspect). And Ponting got lost thrusting at a turner which he gloved to slip.

Quick wickets on the fifth day will give Sri Lanka hope. There is a chance that the regularity turn and bounce will be upgraded from occasional to consistent, in which case it may be a test match. In any case, the battle between the Australian skipper’s feet and the guile of the Sri Lankan spinners will be worth cranking up the Rank Arena for. And Hughes may well build on a fine century which will buy him more time in the team.

But a better Sri Lankan plan might have had the Australians under a lot more pressure.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH,

    Watto has to stop missing the straight one to the spinner.

    Ponting’s footwork is becomng a little crab-like. A natural consequence of getting old.

    Hughes has watched Marsh fired and offered no advice re referring. Very smart by Hughes.

    Your recall of your own experiences is incredible.

  2. Tony Greig said late in the day that if the Sri Lankans could win from here, they’d deserve it. I’m not sure I feel the same way, although I’ll be happy to concede on that if they get the remaining 7 Australian wickets through great bowliing rather than poor batting.

    Having said that, I’d love to see those wickets fall and Sri Lanka left with a difficult but achievable challenge, and for them to take it up, even if they lose a couple early. There’s no more shame (or there shouldn’t be) in losing 2-0 as against 1-0, if it’s in the aim of squaring a series.

  3. I cannot believe they have started with the quicks this morning. The ball is 70 overs old.

  4. As a Test captain, Dilshan is a dill.

  5. Is there an attacking declaration in the offing?

  6. NO !!!

  7. Correct SF.

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