12 September 2011

2nd Test: Poor weather dampens our victory chance

Back in Australia, Ricky Ponting and his family were celebrating the birth of his second daughter.
Over in Sri Lanka, Shaun Marsh received his Baggy Green Cap from his father, Geoff Marsh.
Baggy Green #333 handing his son his very own cap #422, what a great moment it was to see and it was a sentimental moment of history for the Baggy Greens.

Unfortunately the memories created and the good performances by the boys (and a total over 400 runs at last) weren't enough to beat the rainfall that came down upon Pallekele Stadium.
Too many sessions of play were lost and if we feel this frustrated as supporters, spare a thought for our team who really gave it their best out there to win it.

Special congrats to Shaun Marsh on a wonderful debut I won't forget and to Michael Hussey on another man-of-the-match award.
Can't forget Ryan Harris on another strong performances as the leader of the fast bowling unit.

Scorecard for the match
Result: Match drawn and man-of-the-match was Michael Hussey

>BOWLING: Sri Lanka all-out 174
Ryan Harris 3-38, Trent Copeland 2-24, Nathan Lyon 2-41, Mitchell Johnson 2-48, Michael Hussey 1-0

Sri Lanka elected to bat after winning the toss.
While not as crucial as the 1st test with the toss, they had an advantage but right from the start there was a definite sense of complacency from their batsmen how to go about their game and our bowlers mauled them.

They gave our batsmen another golden chance to stamp authority on the match, dismissing the Lankans for just 174 runs.
With 14 runs on the board, our opening duo of Ryan Harris and Trent Copeland had them at 3/14.

Partnerships are a given even in the bleakest of situations for a batting side, but only Kumar Sangakarra and Angelo Mathews (continuing his good form from last game) offered substantial contributions.
Our bowlers were outstanding yet again in their ability to work collectively from their respective ends, build pressure and get wickets.
This was again made possible by not only consistent bowling and well implemented strategies by Michael Clarke, but also by our impressive fielding standards both in the in-field and out on the boundaries.

Ryan Harris was mighty impressive again. Our strike bowler kept it controlled, produced genuine pace and got his usual movement in the air with a hint of additional swing on offer early on.
Thereafter (having already claimed a top order wicket) he just varied things a little bit, while still steaming in for his 16 overs to earn his deserved 3 wickets.

TC set things up for us with two massive wickets in the Sri Lankan top order. He has the McGrath-like skill to keep hitting his line and length consistently but also has enough movement to keep a batsman concentrating and at times relying on their keen instinct to handle these minor variations. Those two wickets were ideal and that was all we needed from him, while he just built up the pressure from his end from that point.
Loved Michael Hussey’s catch at gully! So impressed with our fielding standards.
Watch out England!

Mitchell Johnson showed up spray mode but managed two wickets for us. I was impressed with his short pitched deliveries though, some of those bouncers were brilliant. I like the duo of Ryano and TC as they can maintain their stamina for lengthier periods than Mitch, but in many ways equally tricky to deal with as a batsman gets a good offering of variation taking them on. This also allows MJ to keep bowling with aggression and when he has a good day (which we know is match defining) they will be brutal, in my opinion.
Let the trio develop!

Nathan Lyon suffered a bit of a beating here and there but that is good!
I want to see him challenged and learn how to counter-attack against batsmen taking him on. It will bring out an aggressive streak in his repertoire. He still managed to get a wicket in his first over, teasing Mahela Jayawardene to take him on again, but just tossed it wider outside of off-stump only to get out caught.
He took another caught and bowled to get his 2nd wicket. He did the job, which is another confidence booster.

I liked the tactic of giving Michael Hussey an over just to give Michael Clarke a chance to regroup with his own game plan, but then on his third ball Huss surprised everyone in dismissing Kumar Sangakarra with a flighted delivery which lured Kumar into the drive and Phillip Hughes took the catch.

Filling the void for Punter’s off-spin bowling?

>BATTING 1st innings: 7/411 declared
Michael Hussey 142, Shaun Marsh 141

Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson set of in an instance to give us all the momentum needed to break down the Sri Lankans body language.
Dealing in boundaries, with very strong off-side stroke play, together they had a partnership of 60 runs by the time bad light and stumps were called to give us the dominance for Day 1.
Watto had 36 runs (6 fours) and Phillip had 23 runs (5 fours).

I was really hoping to see Phillip make the most of his start and just reach his half-century for his confidence given his form has been rock solid outside of the Australian team in recent times.

Day 2 came and unfortunately Watto ended up falling to a dismissal similar to when TC bowled Dilshan. Leaving one outside of off-stump that didn’t bounce as expected and swung in and hit the stumps.
Phillip Hughes continued with his innings in a far more conservative manner while Shaun Marsh got settled at the crease for his debut stand for the Baggy Greens.
After doing all the hard work, Phillip defended one half-heartedly almost looking to glance it to mid-wicket but just edged it onto his pad to be caught by that well used position in the series thus far, the bat-pad at short leg.

Michael Clarke had displayed excellent use of his feet and brilliance with the way he can control his bat angles against the spin, just guiding the ball with soft hands into the gaps. I was gutted when he got out for 13 chasing after one which he edged to Mahela Jayawardene in the slips. His form is there, he just needs to keep at it!

As another frustrating batting collapse began to appear on the horizon, the debutant Marsh and the senior expert at match-saving heroics, Michael Hussey, rebuilt our innings in grand style.
Patience, discipline and bold confidence were on display, especially when looking for the boundaries.
Huss was a champ in holding the fort from his end but also not getting tied down to add pressure on Shaun. It allowed Shaun to keep going along with the strategy that had worked for him and credit to Huss for this approach.

What I was most impressed with was the way Shaun negotiated the seam bowlers.
He was ridiculously patient in leaving many, many deliveries outside of off-stump and was sharp in detecting deliveries he could dispatch. It was cautious but ideal temperament which has been lacking in our line-up for a while. On debut and in the pressurising circumstances, especially after Michael Clarke departed, I was most impressed.
He was shaky at times against the spin bowling but that is never easy. He will only improve.

My most memorable part of his innings was the way he backed himself to go for his half century. Those three boundaries in the 68th over to register his maiden fifty and up the attack to the mid-off region was just a positive sign in so many regards.
Huss brought up his half-century soon after and it was a highly purposeful innings.
Huss had all the shots on display.

Just 13 runs short of Shaun's maiden century, the clouds grew thick and the light began to dissappear.
We’d have to wait for the showdown on Day 3. The run chase was in place, but the intensity would be on for Day 3 to see if Huss and Shaun could reach their milestones and then build the lead.

The epic story is Shaun did reach his maiden century and even surpassed his Father's highest test total. Michael Hussey scored his 14th century and played a commanding innings.
I won't go writing all about it again as I wrote about it during their partnership and as our innins came to a closure.
You can read about all of that right here.

The declaration came early which was a pity as Usman Khawaja charged down the ground to smack a six and really force at a late innings assault alongside Ryan Harris but the weather cut their efforts short.
The weather would remain a burden for the game and ultimately washed away any hope we had of securing a victory our team deserved.

>BOWLING 2nd innings:
Ryan Harris 3-54, Michael Hussey 1-2, Trent Copeland 1-63, Shane Watson 1-43

Ryan Harris was the leader of the pack and has comfortably assumed the role as our senior bowler.
Trent Copeland offered stable support and continued his good start to his International career, while Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson did what they needed to do.

It is a concern though with MJ arriving up as either the match-winner champ or the wayward slinger. I know many people are concerned but his economy-rate is good. He has been able to maintain some pressure at his end but the wickets aren't coming his way.
I did notice numerous incidents of luck not going his way but Ryan Harris has taken on the role as our main bowler.

All in all we could harp on about the bowlers but ultimately it was the movement he got with the new ball and the way he was still able to steam in, hitting the deck hard and made sure he maintained pressure with the old ball in hand.
The serious concern is Ryano's career is totally dependent on how his body holds up after some really screwed up injuries. He left the field and even though I want the best playing XI out there, if it means he needs to be rested to avoid the risk of losing him for the all important tour to South Africa, I'd rather he rest up and heal.

Nathan Lyon only walked away with two wickets, but he can't be dropped out in place of Michael Beer for the final test. He has to be given more time. We can't be impatient with these guys, they need a fair chance and if the selectors decided to be all insane and select Nathan Lyon, let him stay there a while and atleast prove things for himself!
I think he is learning alot.

I also enjoyed Michael Hussey taking another wickets. Our very late emerging all-rounder!
Bowling figures:
5 overs, 3 maidens, 2 wickets, 2 runs.

The Sri Lankan's batting remarkably better and although our fielding standards took a bit of a dip, we did well but the weather essentially destroyed our chance of victory and I'm quite upset about it, but that is uncontrollable so you extract the positives.
We lost an equivalent of about two and a half sessions of play I think (maybe more) so it was a serious loss of time.
We'd have taken this game in my opinion with more time on our hands but the Lankan's also put up a very good fight.
I thought of Amazing Adelaide, but it wasn't to be.

Cheers up fanatics, these things happen but the scary reality is that we have to win the final test.
Yes a draw will result in a series win but we need a victory before the gruelling summer ahead. It is going to be very demanding and frankly I think the guys can still lift the intensity and performances.
The team isn't quite settled but the general atmosphere is far more positive.

The final test begins on Friday at Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo.

This picture just says it all! Hard luck Skipper.


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Sylvester said...

Who do you reckon should make way for Ponting?

Congrats to Marsh, has shown a ton of potential but has struggled to convert those 50s so this is a great start.

Ian said...

It would be Khawaja or Hughes, but I think they wanted to give Hughes an extended run as our opening duo is still hit and miss.
Watto will come around this test match as well.
Love the way the guy has a bit of a bleak run and everyone wants him gone. That is exactly why our cricket has plummeted because our selectors did exactly that.

Here's the Squad now:
Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon.

Siddle needs top order wickets!
Resting Ryano the wisest move but obviously a huge disadvantage.