18 December 2012

The Baggy Greens go 1-0 up against Sri Lanka

At last victory has been claimed by the boys after a rained out result in Brisbane, a psychological drawn result in Adelaide where we were a bowler down and then followed by a collapse in form to lose the series in Perth to the Proteas.

Once again Michael Clarke saw the boys in a similar position as it was in Adelaide.
Ben Hilfenhaus has been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test with a side strain and with the injury flared in the Sri Lankan first innings it meant come the second dig we were set to be a bowler down.

Hilfy will remain stranded on 99 Test wickets.

Fortunately the never ending determination and ambition of Peter Siddle, along with the opportunist attitude of Mitchell Starc, we were able to grab the remaining 8 wickets which stood between a drawn result and a badly needed victory.

It was tough going out there for the boys and the one concern from a bowling perspective will be the ineffectiveness of Nathan Lyon, which was the same case at the Adelaide Oval.

It is evident that Nathan Lyon has improved and it's good that the selectors have stuck with him. It was a major pitfall of the last selection panel where we saw an embarassing number of spin bowlers debut for the side following the retirements of Shane Warne and Stewie MacGill.

However, as the commentary team pointed out, Nathan has 56 wickets to his name so he is no push over but the time has come for the major step up.
It's easier said that done but it is understandable that such a comment be made.

When they talk about a "big step up" I don't think we should confuse it with a breath taking, somewhat mesmerising effort that we'd have expected from a guy like Warnie, but rather a comprehensive performance that plays a defining role to find key wickets when the team needs to pave a smooth path to victory when the track permits.

Having said that, fortunately our fast bowlers were geared up and ready to go head to head with the Sri Lankan resistance, which was admirable.

Peter Siddle, or Pedro as I call him, was remarkable and since his debut in 2008 he has not faultered with his attitude. He will break his back for this team and never ever shows signs that he is not up for the battle even when his body is evidently giving him problems with the strain.

He ended up with 9 wickets for the game, a 5fer in the first innings and then four in the second innings. On the final day he managed the only break through but he pitched it up fuller, extracted what bounce was on offer from the Bellerive deck and most importantly he was executing some brilliant outswingers.

A year ago I often commented that as good a bowler as Pedro is he needed more tricks up his sleeve to seriously break into the league of the best of the best.
It's taken time but he's starting to find ways to mix it up and does so on challenging tracks.
Excellent performance!

Mitchell Starc has his second 5fer now but did a splendid job to take the pressure of Pedro and Shane Watson.

With the possibility of Watto leading side in the Boxing Day Test due to Clarkey's hamstring worry, he wasn't exhausted for use and Pedro had already exhausted himself to fight for the final wickets.
Enter Mitchell Starc's final spell.

His first ball was a poor ball which drifted onto the pads of the right hander which was easily splashed away to mid wicket for four. The field was right in and the off side was loaded.
It didn't take Mitchell too long to adjust his line and it all came together.

The last 6 wickets fell for Sri Lanka with only 54 runs added.

When that last wicket was claimed the emotions that hit me where well received.
It's been hard work for the boys and they had the opportunities to mow the Proteas but psychologically got hammered as a result of those opportunities not being claimed. They have faced similar challenges against the Lankans but they pulled through it, many more to follow!

It was also a victory for the batsmen as this Test marks a new chapter with Ricky Ponting retired.

Phillip Hughes made a wonderful return this match.
I am proud he is now a South Australian player and the move has done his game the world of good and if you saw his first innings you would have noticed massive changes in his game.

The balance of his head, front foot positioning and follow through for off side stroke play is at a whole new level, he looks a different player. The cut shot is still as crazy and odd as ever and the heaved slog sweep he played for six immediately brought back memories of his back to back sixes to reach his maiden Test century off the bowling of Paul Harris.

Overall though his balance is is looking set for a strong return at even better is that it's at number three in the batting line up.
David Warner and Ed Cowan also had personal victories as well as a dual one.
The two have had a mixed relationship as our opening duo in Test cricket as ESPN Cricinfo's Brydon Coverdale researched a few weeks back, but this Test saw their stand in the second innings prove to be a vital one in the context of the match, especially the welcomed aggression of David Warner!

Davey's average is starting to look like an opening batsman's as well.

The experience of Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke is still shining brightly.

Michael Hussey has always highlighted the importance of luck when it comes to batting in Test cricket and he had no shortage as he was dropped on the boundary to allow him the chance to raise his bat upon the achievement of his 19th Test century.

His ability to switch momentum and channel different game tempo's is remarkable and something that I admire so much. To do it so consistently as well after so many years is spectacular. We're fortunate.

Irrespective it was all owed to him as he rarely looked troubled in his innings as he built another sensational partnership with Clarkey whose figures below give sufficient indication of his sublime form since taking on the captaincy against, none other than, Sri Lanka.

23, 60, 13, 6, 112, 151, 2, 11, 2, 139, 22, 0, 31, 1, 329*, 18, 210, 37, 73, 6, 45, 15, 24, 25, 259*, 230, 38, 5, 44, 74, 57*.

Matthew Wade is also looking far more settled and managed to put his hand up in the first innings with a half-century. His average is now settled just below 40 with the bat and was backed with 6 catches for the match (21 career catches). Not a bad medium pace bowler either, maiden over secured.

I look at the balance of this side and I am very pleased with what we have.

Our batting looks like a line up that is still ironing out some creases but the outfit as a whole looks tidy enough to take on the best.

As sad as I am that Ricky Ponting has gone this has opened up the door for the new era of batsmen to emerge.

Usman Khawaja has come into the Boxing Day Squad, rightly so, with the injury worries regarding Clarkey and there's some strong batsmen creeping into the system as well.
The State season has not been one to commend the batsmen for but it's given us enough indication as to who is in the mix.

Jackson Bird is also in the side and this is totally fair and an indication that the selectors have been giving careful consideration to strong State cricket performances, which Jackson has given.

He has 87 wickets for the Tasmanian Tigers at 19.72 in First Class cricket.
This season alone he is top of the Sheffield Shield bowling chart with 27 wickets at 20.55.

I am excited about his call up and feel it's a deserved opportunity. Well done Jackson!

In the system we still have James Pattinson (injured), Pat Cummins (injured), Ben Cutting, Josh Hazelwood, Luke Butterworth, Trent Copeland, Alister McDermott and of course some experienced campaigners like Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris (will he return?) and Doug Bollinger.

Spin stocks still appear low but the overall mix is looking good and I am excited for what's ahead.

We still have a series that is alive for both sides but we have drawn first blood and have the victory to be 1-0 up.

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1 comment:

Sylvester said...

I would say the best test for Lyon would be the next two especially the SCG. Always tough for a spinner to some tracks.

Starc has filled the Johnson role all too well! Here's hoping he can build on his potential and not drive us mad like Johnson did.

Siddle really had stood up and is showing the qualities we saw on debut.