Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 1st day

Sri Lanka top order crumbles again......
Australia's bowlers, led by Ryan Harris, put in another wonderful performance on the first morning in Pallekele, where Sri Lanka had slumped to 76 for 5 at lunch. The pitch was much friendlier for batting than the surface in Galle last week, but again Sri Lanka's top order failed to handled the new-ball attack of Harris and Copeland, leaving Tillakaratne Dilshan to wish he'd lost the toss rather than choosing to bat.
Harris and Copeland made the most of helpful conditions in the first hour, the ball swinging and seaming dangerously, before things quietened down after the drinks break. At lunch, Sri Lanka were relying on Kumar Sangakkara, who was on 29, and Angelo Mathews, who was yet to face a ball, having just come to the crease to replace Prasanna Jayawardene.
Coming off a pair in the first Test, Jayawardene was keen to make amends, and he looked to attack the offspinner Nathan Lyon when he came on for his first over, late in the session. Jayawardene swept Lyon for six and drove him for four past mid-off, but Lyon slowed his pace for the final ball of the over, which Jayawardene (18) swept and miscued, skying a catch to deep midwicket.
The only thing that didn't go right for the Australians in the first session was when Shane Watson put down a regulation catch at first slip off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson to hand Sangakkara a life on 27. It could still be a costly mistake, although the impact was lessened when Harris struck two balls later to remove Sangakkara's partner, Thilan Samaraweera, on 17.
The ball had stopped moving greatly off the pitch following the early assistance for the fast men, so Samaraweera wasn't expecting the ball to nip back sharply and take his inside edge. Brad Haddin completed the catch and the wicket undid much of the good work Sri Lanka had done to rebuild, the Sangakkara-Samaraweera partnership having reached 43 after the top order collapsed to 14 for 3.
Some deliveries in Harris' opening spell were almost unplayable, as he angled the ball in to the right-handers and then moved it away off the seam. However, it was the left-hander Tharanga Paranavitana who was the first victim of Harris, for a 12-ball duck, when he got a thin edge behind to a ball that went on with the natural angle from over the wicket.
Copeland was also moving the ball appreciably, and he produced a near perfect offcutter to get rid of Dilshan for 4. Dilshan has struggled to find the right rhythm in this series, either playing too many shots or too few, and this time it was the latter that brought his downfall when he shouldered arms to a delivery that nipped back sharply off the seam and clipped the very top of the off stump.
But the most uplifting moment for the Australian came when Michael Hussey, the oldest player in their team at 36, hurled himself to his left at gully to take a brilliant one-handed catch to get rid of the centurion from the first Test, Mahela Jayawardene, who made 4. Jayawardene had got a thick edge off Copeland and the ball was almost past Hussey when he clutched it in his left hand, and he was quickly mobbed by his team-mates.
One of those colleagues was Shaun Marsh, who became Australia's 422nd Test cricketer and was presented his baggy green by his father Geoff, a former Test opening batsman. When Sri Lanka lost the toss it appeared that Marsh would have quite a wait for his first chance to bat in a Test, but that opportunity might come around quicker than expected.