Kneee deep in rebuilding, being hungry and being procecuted by Don Argus, Australia face their first real test since losing the Ashes and surrendering their World Champion status. Looked almost the part during the ODI series. Most importantly for Australia Ponting looked in pretty suave form. So much so that ol grumpy was happy, as much as Ricky Ponting could ever be happy, to sit out the tour game.
Australia and Micheal Clarke will have you believe that this is a ‘new era’ for Australian cricket. But the fact of the matter is, personnel wise, the only changes from the Ashes loss will be Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh getting their shot. The only real change you will probably notice will be the way Micheal Clarke captains. His all smily admissions about being glad not to face up to quick bowler aren’t really what we are used to from an Australian captain. I mean look at Ricky, he’s not captain anymore but still looks pretty pissed with the world. But don’t let the peroxide and tattoos fool you. Clarke is like the Harvey Specter (Suits) of the cricket world. He will use his good looks and unflustered nature as a weapon to stab you in the back. Clarke managed just the right balance between attack and defence in the ODIs. We should expect more of the same in the test series.
Solid and deep. This is Australias strength. Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey. That is a formidable top order. And all of them looked in good nick in the pijamas stuff. This tour could potentially be the tour that re-launches Phil Hughes’s career and throws more light onto the talents of Khawaja and Marsh. The problem for Australia will be how to fit all of them into the same side. With Haddin and the rest of the tail looking suspect against spin much of the work will have to be done by the top 5. But the plus for Australia is that if needed the lower order do have the balls to hang around and score runs.
If Australia win this series it will be because of their fast men. The ODIs showed that the Sri Lankans still pussy out when its dug in short and there is a bit of nip. And if Harris, Johnson, Siddle and maybe Copeland can get past the top 4, they know they are in with a big chance of skittling the rest. What Australia don’t want to do is go down ‘the when in Rome’ path. Stick to your strength and get at the Sri Lankans. We don’t like it, we never have. If the Aussies are thinking of playing 2 spinners then they’ve already lost the plot. Then there is the Sri Lankan heat. The bigger and unaccustomed Aussie you are, the harder you will fall.
Only 2 test wins in 9 games at home in the last few years. Even if the WI series was played on paddle boats. We have lost to Eng, India (twice) and now Australia in ODIs. Sri Lanka are no longer the dominant team they are at home. And much like Australia, Sri Lanka re also in a new phase of their cricket. A pirate leading the side. No more Murali. There is a huge worry for Sri Lankan fans that we will be unable to win test matches any more. And just like Australia, Sri Lanka will be banking on their top draw cards in the batting and a few unknowns in the bowling. Dilshan has a chance to benchmark how he decides to lead this Sri Lankan test side. Especially now that we have been handed a generous share in the test pie in the FTP.
The Sri Lankan batting line up is like a woman with large boobs. Top heavy. And again we will be relying on the top 4 to score most of the runs. Samaraweeras addition is a welcome one to add a bit more balls to the middle order. But from then on its anyones guess. Everyone loves to brandy up Matthews but he is yet to deliver. Maybe it’s time he is given enough time to get fit and give Thirimanne or Chandimal the break they deserve. Prasanna Jayawardene also has a big part to play. His runs in England were impressive and will need to continue that form if he is to shield the weak lower middle order.
With no Malinga, SL will depend heavily on guys like Eranga and Welagedara for early breathroughs. But they are up against 2 very attacking openers in Watson and Hughes. And with the form Watson has showed this could be a very painful time for the two. Eranga showed he could nip it about early. Whether he can do the same with a red ball remains to be seen. Then there is the spinner conumdrum. If Sri Lanka are to win then they have to get their spin attack right. They will favor the 2 or even 3 spinner option. Mendis has been on the wane, and after his initial romp in the 2020s, the Aussies got used to him. Australians play left armers well. So I would be happy to see Randiv/Mendis/Seekuge or Randiv/Mendis or Seekuge line up for the firs test. Whether the selectors will have the balls to make a big call like that will remain to be seen.