The wicket was a lively one on day 1 and that provided some seriously challenging situations for our batsmen, especially with 16 wickets falling on Day 2.
My biggest concern has been our batting in test cricket, but our bowlers seem to be the protectors and did a job you ought to be proud of.
1-0 for the Baggy Greens and that was a damn good test match, including Sri Lanka's resistance on Day 4.
Congratulations to Ricky Ponting as well as he celebrates his 100th test match victory.
Scorecard View it here
Result: Won by 125 runs,
Man-of-the-match: Mike Hussey for his 95 in the 1st innings.
BATTING 1st innings: 273 all out
Michael Hussey 95, Ricky Ponting 44
Winning the toss on day 1 was a relief, a toss won at last!
Batting first was an important advantage with a wicket that was dry and in good condition.
Michael Clarke basically stated the plan was to bat first and pile on the runs the wicket breaks-up considerably come the final days and we end up having to face-off against the Sri Lankan spinners on the closing days.
That was the plan I think, but it wasn’t the way it was executed as the boys in the 1st innings as they were dismissed under 300.
Shane Watson started strongly, playing assertive straight drives, good judgment of the swinging conditions and wasn’t afraid to play aggressive shots as well.
But the constant talk about spin, the constant talk that Sri Lanka will have an advantage on us in this regard all came to life when Watto was dismissed with the very first ball of spin in the match.
Phillip Hughes went soon after, having played cautiously for his 12 but received a brilliant grip ‘n rip delivery.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke attempted to rebuild things but Michael was dismissed LBW.
A reviewed decision sent him packing and it was frustrating to see him walk off the park for just 23.
Five of our batsmen made starts, with the list reading as follows:
Usman Khawaja 21, Watto 22, Michael Clarke 23, Brad Haddin 24.
Punter had batted extremely well using all his skills to get his innings underway, which was something he had made mention of in an interview as well.
He emphasised the importance of concentration when getting a start in these conditions, especially on a dry track where you need to get your eye in and trust your instincts. Once settled it becomes easier but your discipline has to be constant.
Punter stood by his words until he was on 44, just 6 runs short of a half-century in his first test innings since handing over captaincy, he teed one to mid-off.
A concentration lapse and he ended up playing inside out having committed to the shot. Frustrating!
But we had Mr Cricket.
Michael Hussey was on the verge of being axed before the 2010/11 Ashes series. He saw the value in his chances and had a good Ashes series for us. It has been a while since then but returning to the test scene, Huss was our guy to pull us out of an already gloomy situation.
It wasn’t going to be another Hussey/McGrath, Hussey/Siddle scenario though.
No, it was Huss going for broke! After Trent Copeland departed when Huss was in the 70s, Nathan Lyon strolled out on debut and Huss took matters into his own hands.
His champion innings gained momentum and I enjoyed his shot when he belted a six, clearing long-on displaying all the class that we associate to the man. I was certain he’d get his deserved century.
The innings had cover drives, sweep shots, crisp cut shots and solid defence.
Such a pity he fell just 5 runs short of his 14th test century and too Dilshan’s bowling as well!
An inform Michael Hussey, damn it’s awesome to watch him do what he loves.
Mitchell Johnson and Trent Copeland (in his 1st innings) offered some support for us with the two of them adding a collective 26 runs.
BOWLING 1st innings
Nathan Lyon 5-34, Shane Watson3-11, Trent Copeland 1-24
As for our bowlers, what an epic job each and every guy delivered!
Under pressure once again because of a low batting total, they came together and delivered a group effort you should not forget anytime soon.
The debutants were right in the innings early on, doesn’t get better for team spirit.
Enter Trent Copeland. New ball duty granted alongside Ryan Harris and boom!
Maiden test wicket claimed with the prize wicket of Sri Lankan Skipper, Dilshan.
What a moment for TC. Bowled wide of off-stump, just enough additional movement to get Dilshan to reach for it and all he did was present a sitter for Punter.
TC was even involved in a huge dismissal when Mahela Jayawardene (a man of pure class) gave his wicket away with the ultimate batting sin in test cricket…run out.
Ryan Harris bowled so well. A tight line, bouncers that contained the element of surprise and he built immense pressure from his end. I seriously rate him as our best bowler and what a job he did.
His bowling figures: 8 overs, 5 maidens, 6 runs, 0 wickets, 0.75 eco.
The Redbacks very own Nathan Lyon bowled like a champ on debut taking 5-34.
A big reason behind this was quite likely a maiden test wicket with his very first ball in test cricket!
What a moment it was. I was so stoked for him and the catch Michael Clarke took at first slip to present the wicket to Nathan was a screamer. Down low, left hand stretched out and the sharpest reflexes in the business.
The delivery; flighted, pitched on a good length, grip, turn away from the left hander, outside edge, gone.
He picked up another three wickets to get his five wicket haul, having gotten over the nerves very quickly.
For the 2nd wicket he bowled Angelo Mathews – attempting a sweep shot far too early in his innings – the 3rd with Herath trying the slog sweep only to get out caught by MJ, the 4th when Randiv tried to smack one only for Punter to take a ripper of a catch at short mid-wicket and the 5th was a beauty.
Caught and bowled, reaching out for the ball, snatching it and charging in celebration. Go you good thing!
It was a courageously impressive 1st innings effort from Nathan and he made us proud with his performance. Not easy being an Australian spin bowler nowadays with the fear of becoming another casualty.
I also don’t credit the NSP for the selection. Nathan had little First-class cricket to show for, had played for AusA in Zimbabwe in the limited overs team and was thrown into a very pressurising position.
I credit his performance as a result of the support from his team, his own belief and self-confidence and that first ball wicket just set it up for him to follow the plans set out. He just bowled himself over.
I just hope he isn’t hyped up in the media now.
Shane Watson, how about Watto’s bowling?
The golden arm for us in test cricket and it was a little more than a year ago when he picked up 6/33 against Pakistan in England. This time around it was the LBW party for Watto.
Given the ball, he strolled in and took three wickets, three of them LBWs.
It was just one of those days where Watto was our bowler getting perfect reverse swing and pitching the ball in the ideal zones. His use of the seam and angle at which he delivered the ball created many tense moments.
Our bowlers had done a hell of a job to turn the game around. A lead of 178 I never saw on the cards, but our bowlers had other plans. Well done to Michael Clarke who also had sharp tactics in place.
They had given our batsmen a lifeline, but things weren’t going to start out ideally.
BATTING 2nd innings: 210 all out
Michael Clarke 60,
How shocking was that start for both players and supporters?
Shane Watson out for a golden duck.
Ricky Ponting for just 4 runs with a stroke of bad luck (literally) when he attempted a pull shot only to lose his bat.
2/5 with a golden ticket lead in place. It was quite worrying but who would step up?
Michael Clarke regained his test form with a well fought 60, but the middle order collapsed around him.
Michael had batted so well until he played that dreadful sweep shot which was a downfall by a few of the Lankan’s in their innings.
The way he negotiated the spin bowlers on a wicket that had begun the get flaky was a testament to his class. His footwork, bat speed and all round control was great to see. It was also an important step up from him as Skipper.
Phillip Hughes made a start similar to most our guys in the 1st innings but was a victim to Dilshan.
I still have confidence that Phillip will deliver the goods this series. If I am wrong come the end of this series let me know. We’ll start talking about Simon Katich again if it comes to that.
Michael Hussey couldn’t follow on from his 95 in the 1st innings which really kept us in the game and Brad Haddin was dismissed for a duck. These two guys were our most reliable batsmen in the 2010/11 Ashes series.
Hads is being called out by some, but he is often just a bit careless rather than being outsmarted.
He’s an elegant batsman and one of the best to watch when he’s in-form, plus he’s bailed us out of the crapper many times.
I hope he can come right before the series is out. I still feel 3 years on, Brad has a bit of pressure at times being the predecessor to Adam Gilchrist, even if he doesn’t admit to it.
An observation is the bat-pad position is proving to be a highly effective placement in these conditions which I imagine it plays a lot on the batsmen’s minds when trying to fend off the spinners.
When Stumps came on Day 2, the importance of our bowlers’ efforts to dismiss Sri Lanka so cheaply proved vital. With a total of just 6/115 we had a lead of 283 runs, essentially 67 runs away from setting up an ideal 350 run target on the wicket which was certain to find victory. We got a bit more than 350 in the end.
Day 3 was for Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson to see what they could do to try get those runs.
Mitch tried to play an aggressive innings to push the lead on well Usman played a innings that demanded alot of focus.
After Mitch was dismissed trying to haul out the big shot, Ryan Harris made his mark on the match with his batting. Some strong off-side stroke play and serious application with his lower order duties, Ryano played well for his 23.
Usman departed LBW but Trent Copeland was able to add 23* runs of his own in a mighty useful 32 run partnership with Nathan Lyon (13) to advance the lead closer to 400. I was happy to take 300 at one point.
BOWLING 2nd innings:
Ryan Harris 5-62, Shane Watson 2-19, Mitchell Johnson 2-56
Our bowlers set this victory up on the back of Michael Hussey's valiant first innings of 95 runs.
As mentioned many times, Ryan Harris is quite likely our best bowler and did he back my opinion up on this with his 5fer.
To bowl out three Sri Lankan batsmen on this wicket took skill and application to make his own bowling attributes work for him on the wicket.
Each wicket was one of sharp bowling and excellent use of the seam to get the ball to nip back in with that slight skid he can generate.
The best moment for me was when he dismissed Mahela Jayawardene, who batted bloody well for his century.
Ryano had grafted for that particular wicket and how good was it?
With both the older ball and the newer one he was able to keep things tight and built immense pressure from his end. Well done Ryano, fully deserved.
Hope we get more from him for this tour and the South African tour.
Shane Watson has just been the Golden Arm. He forces the batsmen to play their shots but is able to offer just enough variation to trigger a mistake.
In the ODI arena he's certainly become more suited to handling the batting duties primarily but in the test arena he really is contributing as an all-rounder.
Great to see him contributing as not just an option but as a valuable bowler.
Trent Copeland and Mitchell Johnson just got on with the job, while Nathan Lyon was able to add one more wicket to his match takings (6-107).
Fittingly the victory came with Nathan wrapping things up with his only wicket for the innings, which he tried hard for and certainly would have learned stack. Very good catch taken by Mitch.
Victory by 125 runs, what a start!
The Baggy Greens go 1-0 up.
The article was a long one but I really was just so impressed by our overall performances that it was too hard for me to do day in, day out posts.
I also like to watch highlights a few times as well to catch up on anything I missed.
So while it's not groundbreaking, if you do read all I have to write, I hope you sense my genuine enthusiasm as this team moves forward.
The next match begins on 8 September.
A few days break for our boys and as supporters we can put our feet up.
I just hope our batsmen can dig deep on the wicket at Pallekele and give our bowlers an even better total to work with. Our bowlers can then operate under a little less pressure.
Good victory for the return of test cricket. Damn I've missed it!
And Ricky Ponting bowling off-spin on Day 3? How about that! Created a few opportunities as well. Nice one Punter.
Some of the moments, courtesy of the sharp shooters of © AFP. These guys deserve alot of credit for the moments they capture.
©AFP, made available via Cricinfo.com
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