Sri Lanka lost the first test of their three match series against the Australians on Tuesday. On the fifth day I watched almost every ball before finally succumbing to sleep’s talons. You see, being an Englishman, even though I collapsed only 20 minutes before the last Sri Lankan batsman was removed; the clock had crept toward 7am.
Despite such cavalier disregard for necessary biological demands, my mind remains sharp and here I shall give you some words that hopefully will turn your heads (listen to Boz Boorer’s latest single. Is it his first solo single? YouTube it anyway).
RANT IN DEFENSE OF TEST CRICKET COMING UP
I want to start with the pitch. Though both the test matches played last week drew out over all 5 days, and the match in question saw a dramatic result in the last hour, Christ were the pitches average. Both pitches were slow with low bounce and didn’t invite high scoring rates nor tumbling collapses. The Hobart wicket admittedly was only the square root (in terms of torridness) of the motorway in Nagpur, but it was definitely a game for the purists.
Why should I say such a thing when the match went into the final hour and all three results were viable come the beginning of the concluding day?
Well I’m aware as any that cricket is hardly a ‘sexy’ sport. We don’t have David Beckham or Lionel Messi; we have Mark Richardson and Mike Atherton. Our sport finds it difficult to entrance the viewer in this post-modern nightmare of an age. Cricket is a nuanced game that demands hard work and attention. I don’t hate the shorter forms of cricket; they are just not wholly representative of a sport that psychologically tests one as none other does.
Cricket is a sport that requires some basic form of understanding of its several obtuse rules and laws; without this founding, most viewers and audiences would struggle to get excited about a team batting 6 hours to DRAW a game after 24 hours of time has already elapsed in the match. The Hobart track had some spin and a decent amount of inconsistent bounce, but it was nowhere near the ‘minefield’ Graham Ford (Sri Lanka coach) christened it.
To me, each test match is an odyssey, each test match challenges a player in a plethora of different ways: be it psychologically, physically or technically. It is the ultimate form, and I hope it never compromises its purity in order to attract and trap the un-initiated.
Now to the cricket.
I fancied Sri Lanka to surprise some people and I believe they have. Their top seven is very powerful, with two of the great batsman of the last 20 years (Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene) and another averaging over 50 (Thilan Samaraweera), the bowling was my worry.
The bowling performance itself turned out to be fairly decent. Sure, the Australians looked set to plough on to 500 plus in the first innings, but the way the bowlers picked themselves up come the third innings was admirable; if it weren’t for a shocking refusal to employ the DRS against Cowan on the third evening, they would have chased a score around the 320s as opposed to 393.
In the end it proved a bridge too far (great film).
What will encourage them most was their batsmen’s ability to cope with foreign conditions. One would have expected the Sri Lankan batters to have struggled most in the colder climes of Tasmania, but Sangakarra, Samaraweera, Angelo Matthews, Prasanna Jayewardene and particularly Dilshan looked comfortable. Come the Boxing Day and New Year tests, most likely played out on harder, hotter pitches, these technically gifted and experienced batsmen should be expected to prosper. Their talent is far too great to expect anything less. The first innings collapse, during what was probably the most comfortable period to be batting on the Hobart deck, cost them dear. They should work hard to guarantee that this does not happen again on this tour.
Though the bowling did not shock anyone, they were tidy and stronger than even I’d expected. The quicks were disciplined with the exception of Welegedara, who left with 6 wickets to his name regardless. Alongside Herath’s five-for, there were some very encouraging signs. Kulasekara went at hardly more than two an over and contributed nicely with the bat; Welegedara has been heralded as the leader of this bowling attack, and looks like he could well go on to be; Shaminda Eranga was consistently quicker than Peter Siddle and lively also, he could have a promising career ahead.
I really do believe they can win at least one of the two remaining games.
Australia won the first test of the series though, and their first test of the Australian summer.
They probably should have beaten South Africa already, but the team and nation will be relieved; maybe not so much with the performance. They lack the ruthless quality of all good Aussie teams, for 65% of the final day they looked lethargic in the field and Clarke as captain had no answers. I was gutted the Sri Lankans couldn’t hold on, not only because they deserved a draw from the match, but the Australian team need a stern backhand to the face.
Nathan Lyon failed to bowl out a side in the fourth innings again.
I quite like the guy, anyone who names one of his bowling variations ‘Jeff’ is okay by me. He’s also an off spinner and as a proud member of that union, I have to try to like the boy.
Nonetheless, Nathan Hauritz was slaughtered by the Aussie selectors and everyone has forgotten the injustice that is his snuffed out international career. Lyon and Hauritz have both played 17 test matches: Hauritz has 63 wickets to Lyon’s 57, and he took them at a marginally lower strike rate though they came three runs more expansive than the current Aussie offie.
Nathan Lyon needs to begin taking wickets when the pressure is on, or the team will not progress as they wish to. With a tour of India looming on the horizon and the recent success of England’s spinners there, Lyon needs a big tour or doubts will begin to creep in concerning his place in the side.
Hilfenhaus became the seventh Australian fast bowler in or around the team to break down; the second in three tests to do so during a match. What is wrong with them?
Peter Siddle continues to defy my evaluation of him. Maybe I should relent and admit that he could be a 21st century Merv Hughes, helping to lay the foundations of a future Australian side to dominate all others.
I just don’t like him despite the fact he comes up with wickets at crucial times and single handedly wins them test matches. It’s his typically Australian face, all scrunched and red and irritatingly OTT.
Any Australian is welcome to slag Alistair Cook off for his archetypical English grit and sleep inducing iron will.
But at least he doesn’t sweat so much, eh Pete?
He delivers every ball with such effort, that I fear he’ll implode through the physical exertion.
Plus, I’m not as convinced as Chris Broad is that he’s not a ball tamperer.
I can smell hate mail.
Michael Clarke irritated me with his stodgy captaincy, but by God when he finally decided to put pressure on Sri Lanka, I felt anxious twelve thousand miles away.
Mitchell Starc was irritatingly inconsistent, but his two length tactic against hapless (but determined) tailenders, was Brett Lee-like in its mercilessness. I admire that.
I can’t wait till Christmas Day for copious amounts of presents, alcohol, food and a long night of cricket. The MCG Boxing Day test is a one off in all cricket.
I also am counting the minutes down till I unwrap Gideon Haigh’s latest: On Warne.
He’s arguably the finest cricket writer around and my dream is to one day have him praise my writing through his writing.
I will do a nice little review of the year come next week, with little lists and all that. Standard fare I guess, but maybe some of you will enjoy it and come back to my humble little space on the internet.
I am here still and doing O.K.
Sri Lanka to draw 1-1 or lose 2-1.
I love them, I love the underdog.
My love to you all and Merry Christmas.
This season eat, drink, love and ‘sing your life’.