Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 2nd day

Sloppiness leaves an empty feeling

Despite taking a lead on the second day, Australia had something missing in their game

Daniel Brettig in Sydney

January 4, 2013

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

A dejected Ed Cowan after being run out for 4, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 2nd day, January 4, 2013
Ed Cowan was one of two batsmen run out on the second day © Getty Images
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Only twice in 78 Tests before his final one did Michael Hussey have the words "run out" entered next to his name on a scorecard. On both occasions Hussey was out in a manner more akin to being stumped - found out of his ground by a quick thinking silly-point fielder from India. As fastidious between the wickets as he was in all other facets of the game, Hussey's avoidance of this most maddening method of dismissal spoke volumes for his thoroughness.

So it was indicative of another sloppy day for Australia, as well as a mighty shock for the crowd of 26,420 at the SCG, to see Hussey departing in his final match to a run out after his captain Michael Clarke had called what turned out to be too hasty a single. Where on day one the team selection, choice at the toss and discipline of the bowlers was questionable, the second day was pockmarked by two run-outs, a trio of batsmen out to presumptuous strokes, and mounting evidence of a pitch drying far quicker than any bowl-first captain would have liked.

As on day one, these mistakes were not quite terminal, for the Sri Lankan opposition are doughty rather than daunting, and were again to fall foul of the vagaries of the DRS when different choices might even have resulted in a narrow first-innings lead for the visitors. Nonetheless, they do mean Clarke's team are making very hard work of a Test they were prohibitive favourites to win after rolling to a series victory inside three days in Melbourne.

The haziness of Australian thinking was evident early on when Ed Cowan dawdled a first run after David Warner flicked wide of midwicket as he continued a rapid start to the day. The dawdle was compounded when Warner hared back for a second and Cowan hesitated, and by the time he was moving again Nuwan Pradeep's return was well on the way to Dhammika Prasad. Metres short of his ground, Cowan hung his head on the way off - at the time a run out seemed the only way that he and Warner were likely to be separated under sunny skies against a new ball combination that was rich in endeavour but extremely modest in record.

Cowan's involvement in run outs has been, alongside his propensity for missing out on major scores when conditions and opponents should suit him best, the most troubling part of his brief Test career so far. It seems at times as though his obvious intellect and determination to get everything right has interfered with his capacity to make the sorts of instinctive decisions that other less cerebral players manage to succeed by more often. A first run may be ambled with the thought of a long day ahead, when in fact the better thought is to be thinking purely of pressing for a second and worrying about the rest of the day when it arrives.

That early muddle was forgotten for most of the next two and a half hours, as Warner and Phillip Hughes were barely stretched in punching out a stand of 130 at comfortably better than four per over. For a time Warner threatened a century before lunch, while a more sedate Hughes could hardly be called dour in chugging along at the sort of pace Mark Taylor used to aim for in ODI matches. So secure did the pair look, despite evidence of turn on the drying surface, that their dismissals ultimately arrived via means that suggested they had become too comfortable at the crease.

Warner's slog at Tillakaratne Dilshan was unnecessary, and made worse for the fact that he stood a far better chance of lofting the part-time off spinner to the boundary with a more authentic stroke than the ugly mishmash of drive and hoick that he ultimately tried. Hughes had prospered with the cut shot, but was fooled by Rangana Herath's change of pace and the mild variation in bounce provided by the pitch. Both had fallen short of centuries on the same ground and the same day a year ago that Clarke had set about erecting a monumental 329, and both will end the Sri Lanka series with nothing like the runs their sharp touch had suggested - a waste.

Wicket deteriorating quickly: Phillip Hughes

  • "It would've been nice to get a few more, to get out on 87 was a little bit disappointing but in saying that it was nice to get a few. It was that type of wicket that I never felt 100% in. It is doing a bit already, it's only day two and it did take a bit of turn. Also I felt it was quite difficult to drive … even though I did get a few runs it was quite difficult in periods of my innings. I just felt you had to play the ball as late as possible. I think Nathan Lyon will come into the game in the second innings.
  • "It's never nice to get run out, but we all know that's cricket at the end of the day. How it was in the change room was how it would be for any other wicket. Always disappointing when you get out, but for Mike Hussey to get run out, there were two run outs today, and four in the series, it's something we've got to look at going forward. It's never nice to be run out especially in Test cricket in the big moments, so it's something we've got to address."

This is not to say that Clarke himself was immune from censure. He began 2013 like he had spent much of 2012, driving the spinners with assurance, flicking the pacemen to midwicket with panache, and hustling between the wickets. But Clarke was then to transgress in the sort of manner that he had done every so often in the years before he became captain, something that did not endear him to followers of the team.

First, his call resulted in Hussey's run out, then a conflicted-looking heave at Herath resulted in another skier and catch for Sri Lanka. Whether or not Clarke was distracted by the manner of Hussey's dismissal will be a question only he can answer, but his exit left a great deal of work to be done for the tail unduly extended by the selection of five bowlers. Matthew Wade flirted with danger often in his innings, but he sold his wicket more dearly than most of the batsmen who had preceded him. Due to their inattention, he now has only Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Jackson Bird for batting company.

At the end of the equivalent day last year, Clarke had walked off in the company of Hussey to accept the adulation of the SCG for an unbeaten tally of 251 as India were confounded by the ruthlessness of a hungry team. This time Hussey's run out had left the gathered spectators with something of an empty feeling, and it would be one shared by Clarke and the rest of his team. There has been something missing in this match.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 4:45 GMT)

Aus - SL, SA - NZ dont make a good mix for cricket watchers. SA - Aus, Ind - Pak, Ind - Aus in Ind, Eng - Aus are combinations that are good to watch and make for exciting cricket.

Posted by zenboomerang on (January 5, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

@JB77... Agree, unsure why cricinfo monitors allow so many troll comments & block many genuine comms... Have a number of friends who don't even bother coming to this website because of its known troll comms - cricinfo's loss & real fans...

Posted by zenboomerang on (January 5, 2013, 4:22 GMT)

Only one person misread this pitch & that was Clarke... The curator said the day before the match that it would be a dry pitch - bat 1st with a backup spinner... Mahela agreed... So far this summer Clarke has made fundamental mistakes - poor bowler selection or use at AO, WACA, SCG - running out Hussey & poor shot selection when a more mature approach would have led to a much bigger 1st innings lead in this match... Expect a few blunders by new captains, so hope he is learning from his mistakes...

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 5, 2013, 3:57 GMT)

I stand by those statements, as late day 2 pitch starting playing up and with wickets in hand 500 could be achieved against an average bowling attack. However, watching early day 3 the pitch doesnt seem to be playing many tricks.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (January 5, 2013, 2:43 GMT)

Hammond, why would the series in India show 'the real difference' any more than the other 13 series played by Australia and England combined since the last ashes, 12 of which show a superior performance by Australia? You need to brush up on your cricket terminology too buddy. A whitewash is winning every test in a series. Only one of the ashes combatants has done that. We can say with absolute certainty that England never will, and haven't gone close during this brief period of recent 'dominance.'

Posted by Jayzuz on (January 5, 2013, 1:56 GMT)

@mikey76, so are we to we assume that "twice'' is a synonym for "so many times"? I'm assuming you are a native English speaker, so that I don't have to explain the meaning of that phrase. I predict Lyon will take a bag of wickets this 3rd innings, possibly 5+. The two "so many times" that Lyon didn't take wickets in the 4th innings were both times when the opposition were dead batting, playing for a draw. As we have seen with the world's most successful spinner in 2012 - Herath - struggling most innings to take wickets, it isn't easy to bowl offspin in Australia.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (January 5, 2013, 1:43 GMT)

@Chris_P Its abit like how we didnt hear much from you when New Zealand won the test in Hobart too. Yes, thats right, the Black Caps. Hows that for comic relief or is that too real for you?

Posted by McCricket_ on (January 5, 2013, 1:21 GMT)

@FFL: did we watch the same cricket over the last 12 months? Notwithstanding the brilliant series win in India; England lost 7 out of 15 tests in 2012, for a win/loss ratio of 0.7. Yes, zero point seven. Australia lost one from 11, for a W/L ratio of 7. Different pitches, some different teams, but both teams played 8 of their Tests against SA, WI and SL in that period.

England are rightfully favourites for the Double Ashes Series -- heightened by the loss of Hussey -- but Australia are a vastly improved team. Let's see how that carries through the Indian and English away tours . . .

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 1:07 GMT)

@JB77 - I'm with you! pure Trolls!

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 4, 2013, 23:23 GMT)

Hammond - Not sure what your definition of whitewash is,the only on e I can recall is the one that was not part of the 3 of 4 series wins.

Posted by OzWally on (January 4, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

Just in case anyone else is wondering, England has lost 2 of 7 series and 7 tests since the last Ashes.

I'm not saying Australia is going to win in England next year, but just get your facts right before making a statement.

Posted by OzWally on (January 4, 2013, 23:07 GMT)

@Hammond - not sure where you get your data from, but Australia have played in their last 7 series (not in exact order)- SL (won already) SA (lost), SL away (won), WI (won), NZ (drew), India (won) & SA away (drew). In fact we've only lost the 1 series (SA) since we last played England, which we lost 3-1 (not a whitewash).

In fact we've only lost 3 tests in total since the last Ashes series. Care to guess how many tests and series you guys have lost? No I guess not.

Posted by Hardy1 on (January 4, 2013, 23:03 GMT)

I'd like to see Sri Lanka win this Test just because they've been so (relatively) uncompetitive since Vaas, Murali & Jayasuriya went. If they manage to do it without Sangakkara too, now that would be some feat. Also I think you're making one too many assumptions about Cowan's intellectualism. Just because he seems relatively smart doesn't mean it's getting in the way of his batting in any way...sure he may be hesitant on occasions when he shouldn't be but I don't think that's a result of his intellectual capacity.

Posted by landl47 on (January 4, 2013, 22:25 GMT)

Today's exercise in logical thinking: analyse these statements from Shaggy076 and see if you can spot the logical fallacy: 1. It has been a difficult pitch to bat on. 2. Lost 2 run outs and 2 to slogs- leaving only two genuine dismissals. 3. The pitch isn't playing as good as everyone thought. 3. A 500 total was there for the taking.

Tomorrow we'll look at Front-Foot-Lunge and ask the question: "Is lobotomy justified in some cases?"

Posted by   on (January 4, 2013, 22:21 GMT)

I've been quite disappointed with Oz this Test match

1) I was left scratching my head when Mitchell Johnson was named anti-Watson. MJ has proven again how hit and miss he really is. He's not an all-rounder in the classic sence. He's a unpredicable bowler( brilliant in Melb, rubbish in Syd) who can bat a bit. A proper batsman should have been chosen in Kawaja.

2) I was bewildered when Clarke chose to bowl first. I grew up in Sydney and so has Clarke. Mate, you do not ever, ever bat first in Sydney if you win the toss unless it's been raining previously or is overcast. The SCG tracks might not spin like in did in the '80's & '90's but is still spins.

3) My 3rd point is connected to point 2. You do never ever play 4 seamers in Sydney. The WI's did it numerous times and got beaten every single time by test match "guest star" spinners. Glenn Maxwell should have played instead since he can bat well and is half decent with his offies and we will need him in India as a 2nd spinner.

Posted by JB77 on (January 4, 2013, 21:40 GMT)

I dream of a day when I can read the comments on an Aus article without the inane ramblings of Front-Foot-Lunge or RandyOz and others like them. Why don't you guys find a another message board somewhere were you can write rubbish and troll to your hearts content?

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 4, 2013, 21:40 GMT)

In these days of mini-three-Test tours, we have got a typical dead-rubber Test. Oz is largely going through the motions, with more than half an eye on much more consequential upcoming series v India (that must surely be beaten, if England's series' win isn't to shine even more brightly) & then off to a resurgent England. SL is attempting to regain some pride, but, handicapped by injuries & injudicious usage of DRS, can scarcely contain Oz, try through they do. SL anyway appears to be falling into the India trap (we do T20 for the bucks; Test matches are a necessary evil) & my guess is that we'll see a long term decline in SL as a Test-playing power esp. when Maleha & Sanga have gone. It will be a shame if SL goes into prolonged eclipse as they are usually a side that plays with pride, something that has all but disappeared in their gigantic neighbour. It seems to me that only Pakistan (rightly much less concerned/duped with bashing cricket) is up for Test cricket in the subcontinent.

Posted by Hammond on (January 4, 2013, 19:44 GMT)

@Chris_P- better hope the Aussies can win a single test match in India. You will see the real comparison between the two teams then, (never mind that you have lost 3 out of the last 4 test series, and were whitewashed by England last time you played them). Enjoy the India series mate, hope you don't have to turn it off in disgust.

Posted by mikey76 on (January 4, 2013, 15:52 GMT)

So it's all set up for Nathan the Lyon to wreak havoc on a drying pitch. He's failed so many times on fifth day pitches lately that he's running out of excuses. Would love to see SL set a decent fourth innings total for Herath to bowl at, but somehow I think this poor quality test match will be a comfortable win for a very ordinary Australia.

Posted by mark2011 on (January 4, 2013, 15:12 GMT)

@Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (January 04 2013, 11:13 AM GMT); A cook batted on mind filed ? i wonder whether u watch any of those matches mate? all were very good batting tracks.. though india failed misserably... of course Cook is good batsmen, but pitch was not so terrible to be called mind field.. but insted SL had a mind field to survive in Horbart few bck back which they tried very much.. that pitch was keeping balls low and high in very uneven manner which casue eventual downfall of the batsmen

Posted by Herath-UK on (January 4, 2013, 13:31 GMT)

Sri Lanka came into the game and if they can wrap up the Aussies cheaply tomorrow and give at least a 200 hundred lead, my namesake Rangana can make a fist out of it on this rapidly drying pitch.Although we looked negatively at Sri Lanka's batting,Aussies fared not better especially having the confidence of a 2-0 lead and the benefits of umpiring decisions ( Clarke's & yesterdays harvest of two no balls that were given out).Wondered why Rangana was not brought on in the morning session at all. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by DanTas on (January 4, 2013, 13:21 GMT)

What a shame we're not playing the Kiwis. We'd be far enough ahead after day two to win by an innings!! Wicket is deteriorating. Thanks to a curious decision by Clarke, Australia will probably have to bat last. That makes Sri Lanka favourites, for the moment at least.

Posted by dessertfox on (January 4, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

I don't quite see how Ed Cowan making an error in his running between the wickets is evidence of "the haziness of Australian thinking", as DB claims. Sorry to be picky, but this is about the 100th example I've come across of the haziness of DB's cricket knowledge/ journalistic skills...getting a bit tired of it.

Posted by Chris_P on (January 4, 2013, 12:00 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge. Still providing the comic relief? Sure missed it when your mob played the Saffers & Paksitan. You also went missing the first Indian & Sri Lankan test too. Yes, that's right, the Sri Lankans!

Posted by Webba84 on (January 4, 2013, 11:55 GMT)

Shaggy076 is right, Australia could still lose this match. Not anywhere near as big a deal as the report makes it sound though, or as unusual. Dead rubbers are rarely known for the amazing performance of the team that won the series. Johnson not being able to manage good batting or bowling for more than one test is more dissapointing than anything else so far. (Yes, even the run out - it is very fitting that the most reliable batsman in cricket was out through no fault of his own, its his very own 99.94 thing)

Posted by KhanMitch on (January 4, 2013, 11:52 GMT)

@Beertjie its obvious that Khawaja should have been picked at 6 for this match especially given it was a dead rubber but he is doing the next best thing and scoring heavily in the T20 competition, another 50 tonight for the Thunder on a tough WACA ptich

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 4, 2013, 11:49 GMT)

FFl - "True cricket lovers appreciate demonstration in batting skill" - If you think our pitches are so poor why watch it? Anyway not sure you have been watching this, the odd ball has stayed down and some have turned square. It has been a difficult pitch to bat on. I'm a true cricket lover and watching 85 overs of spin and 5 overs of pace to me is not real cricket all it demonstrated was Cook was adept at facing spinners on a slow turning surface. There was no demonstration of his ability to face pace. i also watched a lot of these games and the pitches were barely minefields , just a lot of indian batsman with no discpline to play the longer form of cricket. What I dont get, if this series is so boring to you why the hell are you watching it.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (January 4, 2013, 11:36 GMT)

I see khawaja gets a mention again. I can see why the selectors have their doubts. A great innings tonight in Perth, but how any batsman could fail to cross and get the strike when two tail-Enders were caught slogging in the last over defies belief. It was abysmal cricket. I watched him at the Allan Border field against NSW. He failed to push a single and change ends in 3 hours of batting. And his fielding in the tests he played was laughable. Like Cowan, he is off with the fairies too often to be a test cricketer. But I'm tipping they will both be there for the first test in India.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (January 4, 2013, 11:13 GMT)

What a tragic state this match is in: Poor batting, poor decision making both from batsmen and from Australia's captain, poor skill levels. And a flat deck, which is of typical of Australia these days knowing as they do their own batsmen's weakness for batting on anything other than a flat pancake pitch. True cricket lovers appreciate real demonstrations in batting skill, like what the world saw with Mr A. Cook in India recently where he showed how scoring hundreds on minefields is a different form of the game to the pancake-cricket we see in the Christmas Minnow Big Bash here.

Posted by mateyman on (January 4, 2013, 9:30 GMT)

Maybe, just maybe what has been missing in this match is that it is a dead rubber which everybody thought Australia had won before the first innings even began. I really don't think too much should be read into it.

Posted by Beertjie on (January 4, 2013, 9:19 GMT)

What's been missing was common sense. Over-reaction from the NSP over the bowling injuries confused their thinking. Once Watto was out they began panicking about "What ifs?" instead of selecting the designated next-in-line batsman Khawaja. That's what is missing: common sense by a NSP that I'm beginning to mistrust if the "selection" of Maxwell is anything to go by - that and the earlier strange selection in the WI of Forrest (Where's he now ? Look at the SS runscorers!). After our recent re-surgence I would be surprised to hear talk of complacency, but all the blame cannot be laid at the door of the players. Management (esp. the NSP) need to get their act together in this new year!

Posted by stormy16 on (January 4, 2013, 9:05 GMT)

Cowan has concerns after a sting of failures against what is surely a weak attack at best. He made a brilliant and much needed hundred against SA at the begining of the summer but has since gone off the boil somewhat and now faces tough overseas tours with very little runs under his belt.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 4, 2013, 8:07 GMT)

It was sloppy and might come back to haunt us since the pitch isnt playing as good as everyone thought. Lost 2 run outs and 2 to slogs - leaving only two genuine dismissals. We had a chance to be 2-3 down at stumps but blew it. Our tail end is usually good at applying themselves so still confident on pushing past 400 but a 500 total was there for the taking.

Posted by disco_bob on (January 4, 2013, 7:58 GMT)

Well I guess it's now up to SL to put up enough of a fight so Hussey can bat again. It's the least they can do.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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