Sri Lanka has scored the headline gig this winter (Australian summer) as they ready to match up against the Aussies. They shall grace Melbourne in the Boxing Day test and Sydney in the New Year match. I’m sure there were Australians complaining over the Sri Lankans being allotted these prestigious dates instead of the South Africans, but those dissenting voices are noticeably dimmer after their loss to the latter.
There seems to be a grudging acceptance that the team is not quite as strong in the test format, as the Australians would have liked the rest of us to think they were. The failure to capitalise on South African mistakes and to seal the deal in the second test shows them up for what they are: a good test side with plenty of room for improvement.
The Australian batting line up remains wafer thin, the return of Phil Hughes (otherwise better known as: P Hughes b C Martin c M Guptill) to take the number 3 spot as Watson drops to 4 in replacing Ponting, has come much sooner than most would have predicted. He has displayed an admirable amount of dedication in the last 12 months, attempting to re-balance his game and strip away his off side prevalence, but reports seem to suggest his technique has not been altered radically; since the English county season, Hughes has averaged 40.32 in first class cricket. These are hardly staggering stats and with only 3 centuries in those 28 innings, Hughes has hardly forced his way back into the side with weight of runs. Usman Khawaja is the next man in the queue for a middle order spot, but again, he played county cricket through the northern hemisphere summer and fared similarly, averaging 39 with just 2 centuries to brag of.
These two men are indicative of the crisis the Australians will face once Hussey has departed; both of them have been tried in the international scene and have thus far failed. Alex Doolan down in Tasmania has won many fans of late and averages 58 in the Sheffield Shield this season. He also is a specialist number 3, which should see him thrown onto the international scene sooner rather than later. It’s a strange world where the Aussies field three different batsmen at first drop in 4 separate tests. It has pretty much been admitted since that Rob Quiney was put in against the South Africans as a sacrificial Lamb, in order to save Hughes’ face and give him the greatest chance of succeeding against a rather less threatening attack.
Block cop and Slog cop still rule the roost at the top for the Aussies, both steadfast in their refusal to ‘click’ together. It’s just blatant bad chemistry; they’re the couple we all know who just don’t quite suit each other (should I think back to old times? Nah). David Warner yearns for Watson to stand alongside him, his beautiful mirror (we know this sort); Eddie Cowan just loves Michael Clarke, I’m sure he prays captain fantastic will shield him all the time in his tattooed arms and allow him to score as slowly as he damn well wants to!
For this, we love Eddie Cowan.
Matthew Wade continues to keep and bat like a homeless man’s Gilchrist. Get Brad Haddin back in, as Hussey has proven advancing years do not necessarily drag the average down with every player. The bowling attack… well Mitchell Johnson won’t play (his return in Perth was expensive but not shameful), Peter Siddle will and so it’s likely Starc and Hilfenhaus will accompany him.
I have to comment on the Channel 9 commentary team’s consistently fawning praise of Peter Siddle. To me he is nothing more than a whole hearted line and length bowler, who occasionally gets the ball to nibble off the seam toward slip. Sure there is something to be said for accuracy (in comparison to bowlers he has partnered… JOHNSON) but I just see him as an Australian Andre Nel, which isn’t an awful thing at all; just the Aussie press treat him like the resurrection.
Nathan Lyon had yet another decent series, but this should be brushed aside in view of his failure to rock the South African line up in the 4th innings at Adelaide. 3 wickets when your team are depending on you to do the lion’s (GEDDIT) share of the work are not quite enough for me. Graeme Swann would have done better, and he should be the benchmark Lyon aspires to.
So Sri Lanka, most commentators on the sport considers them to not have a chance in hell.
I do however feel they shall put up a sterner challenge than most give them credit to. The most useful reference point I find is their tour of South Africa last year and the players who performed, especially with bat in hand.
Dinesh Chandimal must start. He had real grit with the bat last year and has form having scored a half century in the warm up game. He has a solid technique and a sound temperament. We know all about Sangakkara and Jayawardene, who have scored runs in Australia before. Dilshan continues to front the line up with panache and skill; his wondrous tonne at Lords last year displayed that he can succeed in conditions alien to him. Thilan Samaraweera dispelled most doubts over his technique on the South Africa tour with two fantastic centuries, one of which heralded his country’s first win on South African spoil. If he can perform with such verve again, the top six has the potential to be a thorn in the Aussies side. One almost forgets Prasanna Jayawardene and Angelo Matthews. There is competition in the batting and I expect them to perform, against what is hardly a vintage Australian attack on pitches that are usually batsman friendly (with Hobart aside possibly).
The bowling is a worry; truthfully it has been since Sri Lanka became a fully-fledged test side in 1982. They have really only possessed one world class strike bowler (Murali) and Chaminda Vaas remains their greatest quick by a distance. This attack struggles to bowl sides out. Herath remains the biggest threat and if you leave for a three match tour of Australia with your biggest wicket taking threat being a left arm orthodox slow bowler, trouble beckons. The quicks look woefully unlikely to threaten the Australians, though maybe if the ball is nibbling about they can make inroads. Regardless, it is Sri Lanka’s weakest bowling line up since the rise of Murali.
I reckon the Australians will prevail 2-0. The Sri Lankan batters will be bound to perform in at least one test. Let it begin, I need more late night cricket to cure this heart of mine. Sob…. Choke…Cough…Start again.
I shall get back to you with my verdict on England in India and the first test Down Under late next week.
I am boarding a train tomorrow and if I am not stabbed on the Victoria line or the 393 bus I shall be HOME! But so will…
Thanks for keeping me occupied for an hour and a bit or so, as I have sifted through stats and ruminated on the sport. Your patience keeps me going as they say. The England match starts in 3 hours. I shall make coffee and distract myself.
Faith is to believe ‘that love without reward is valuable’.
Sometimes I fantasise about these things and others.