Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 January 20, 2013

Problems for Australia, promise for Sri Lanka

Australia trail 2-1 with one match to play and there are plenty of issues for Mickey Arthur's side to work through

Australia still deficient against the moving ball
Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach, had wanted to "find out about a few players" during this series. A trio of pitches offering something to the seam bowlers in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney have given him more information than he may have wanted. The travails of the batsmen against the diligent but hardly intimidating swing and seam of Nuwan Kulasekara have made for dire viewing with this year's tour of England in mind, demonstrating both a lack of technical tightness to handle the moving ball and a mental strength to push through difficult patches. The effect of two new Kookaburra balls in ODIs has been to emulate the more prolonged movement offered by the Dukes projectile favoured in the UK, and for three matches in succession it has been the bowlers who were better able to glimpse wider scoring windows with the bat. It is no coincidence that Australia's strongest result came on a concrete-like Melbourne surface. Apart from The Oval, such a strip will be hard to find during the Tests in India and England that are looming on Arthur's calendar.

Sri Lanka's young batsmen show promise
There are rumblings emanating from Sri Lanka that the installation of a new selection panel may herald the end of Mahela Jayawardene's days in the national team at the end of this tour. If that is so, then the next generation is standing up at precisely the right time. Lahiru Thirimanne's contributions in both the Sydney Test and the ODIs were heartening, while Kushal Perera showed enough spunk as the wicketkeeper-batsman to keep his place for batting alone when the exceedingly promising Dinesh Chandimal returned to fitness from a hamstring strain. While the question of Jayawardene's future is complicated - he remains the best leader Sri Lanka possess, by a distance - the emergence of the aforementioned youthful trio should bring about the conclusion of Thilan Samaraweera's days in the national team. Australia would be grateful for a batting talent or two of Chandimal's ilk.

Rotation is becoming a divisive issue
While there is some sound long-term thinking at the core of the selectors' decision to rest key players during this series and also to be more choosy about which fast bowlers are picked in Test matches, the method behind the madness has been lost on many, including those choosing state teams. If criticism from the public and the media is more than likely to wash over John Inverarity's panel, the following words from the former national chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, now holding the equivalent post for Queensland, show that doubt about the policy is festering. Hohns was asked on ABC Radio whether he would have done the same if still in charge: "It's a difficult one to answer, that one. Times are different but possibly not ... Way back then, we often rotated or rested players only in one-day cricket and at an appropriate time. I think unfortunately at the moment they are having trouble getting their message across over exactly what they are trying to do." Hohns' words arrived after a meeting of state talent managers with the selectors in Adelaide during the national Under-19s carnival, where there was more than one difference of opinion. It should also be noted that before he sternly insisted on the term "informed player management", Inverarity stated in October that "rotation is not a dirty word. Rotation is reality". Reality bites.

With Malinga, Sri Lanka's attack goes from mediocre to strong
Kulasekara's repeated success against the Australians in this series can be at least partly linked to Lasith Malinga's presence in the XI, offering another serious pace threat and meaning the batsmen have been caught in more than one mind against the former's seam and swing. Rather than simply treating each ball with due respect, they have had to contend with the thought that Malinga's overs still lurk ahead in the innings, resulting in some mixed strokes keenly exploited by Kulasekara. The introduction of Rangana Herath to the team for Sydney was another improvement to the ODI line-up, for his consistency will invariably result in a wicket or two through sustained pressure and subtle variations even if the surface is not offering enough turn to beat the bat.

Hussey and Maxwell should be at the fringes of the top six, if at all
Auditions to replace Michael Hussey as a middle order fix-it man have so far been dispiriting. For all their undoubted talent as hitters, and varying usefulness as part-time spin bowlers, David Hussey and Glenn Maxwell have been shown as clearly lacking the technical chops to handle anything other than the most occasional early innings assignments, and only then in an emergency. Maxwell's walking footwork in Adelaide was destined to end in an outside edge and so it proved, while Hussey's outstanding first-class career figures do not reveal the lack of certainty and security against the short ball that was exposed during last year's World Twenty20 semi-final against the West Indies and was underlined by Lasith Malinga at the SCG. Maxwell and Hussey remain in contention to tour India as Test-match utility players, but if they do should not be asked to bat any higher than Nos. 6 or 7.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mariam on January 21, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    Good point Brendon_Edward, Clarkey has always consistently spoken in favour of Khawaja so i am also not sure what Cluegeek is on about. In fact the selectors have got Khawaja firmly in their radar for the Indian series so all this talk of conspiracy theories is just baseless conversation.

  • Lewis on January 21, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    @ClueGeek you obviously are not thinking before typing your comments. Clarke and Khawaja get along well, they went to the same school, both are from NSW, the issue is not Clarke, its Inevarity. Clarke was the first captain to bring a sub continent player in Khawaja into the team and both will be stars for us in the ashes.

  • Lewis on January 21, 2013, 5:48 GMT

    After the last few ODI's i am over these all rounders, Maxwell is not a allrounder. If someone like Maxwell actually could bat or bowl, then great, but I haven't seen any of them do either. Not to keep going on Watson, he's probably not half the player he was 09-10, but he was averaging like what, 45 at opener? And taking a handful of wickets most games. THAT is an all rounder.Someone who makes 20, then takes 1 wicket every game or two is not an all rounder. Our real problem is the top order and we need solid top order batsman and Khawaja and Doolan are among the best that we have at the moment so lets get them in for India

  • Jay on January 21, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    No doubt, Australian top order batsmen need to work on their technique against seaming and swinging balls. Having said that , all batsmen around the world have technical issues when the ball swings or seams bit more than normal. The issue currently plaguing Australia is all to do with the selection of certain half baked all-rounders who do not warrant a place as a batsman nor as a bowler and the other issue is not picking top order players who have scored centuries on difficult batting pitches in the shield matches. The sole purpose of any top 4 batsmen in a batting line up is to be able to score 100s on difficult pitches where bowlers have the upper hand . A top order must be defined on basis of how good the player is when the conditions don't favor the batsman. At present how many top order batsmen are capable of scoring 100s and that should be the only criteria to pick a player to bat at top 4. Right now Watson,Warner, Hughes,Khawaja and Clarke fit the norm.

  • Joe on January 21, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    This reinforces my view that batsman need to be prevented from using DRS speculatively. Batsmen should not review an LBW unless they believe they have hit it. Clarke reviewed a 50-50 decision at best, and it turned out to be plumb. Batsmen need to stop reviewing in hope and only use DRS when they know, or are 90% sure, that the umpire has erred.

  • Aaron on January 21, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    How exactly did was Hussey's supposed short ball weakness exploited at the SCG? From memory, Malinga bowled one short ball to him, and it was a brute of a delivery. He got out to an outstanding spell of fast outswing bowling that no player in world cricket would've been comfortable facing.

  • Philip on January 21, 2013, 1:42 GMT

    Rotation is a divisive issue. Australia struggles against spin. It also has too many best suited to number 6 ( including David Hussey who does need to bowl as well) or to number 7. Sri Lanka do have some upsides in ODIs. All in all, I can't see why Daniel Brettig should cop flak for this article other than for stating the bleedin' obvious. And that's doing no great disservice to journailism.

  • Rahul on January 21, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    @Junikamra some excellent points and i echo your every word, Khawaja has to be bought in sooner rather then later. Also Can we bring back the tri-series, they are so much better then the 5 ODIs.I don't want to throw Khawaja's name around too much but he deserves it. For him though it does put pressure every time he bats beause he has tons of people saying "where the hell is he, he's the best, he will save us" for months and months. What he needs is a run similar to what Cowan annd others have had at test level and not feel like if he doesn't score 200 he'll be dropped for another two years which is what he got when he got dropped after the first ODI for getting a unlucky run out.As for the DRS, treat it like run outs & stumpings, but only if player body language causes the need for a look at.

  • Mariam on January 21, 2013, 0:20 GMT

    With regards the spot for India, Rohit sums it up the best.Khawja's440 shield runs at 40 in sheild stacks up veyr well against Hussey who has 120 at 17 and Bailey who has 169 runs at 28.16. And the lack of runs against the moving ball for Bailey and Huss further makes their case weaker. One of my Indian friend at work said to me that funny how India did not want DRS and we Aussies whinge when we had wickets turned down or given out when not out sayig that we can't have cake and eat it as well. I don't necessary agree, I am not critical of India's decision as that's their call but i think for us the lesson to learn from yesterday that no top order batsman should ask for a DRS unless they get a howler as you ruin it for the rest of the team, Clarke did it yesterday and Hughes was guilty of it the game before. I am sure we will learn our lessons.

  • John on January 20, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    Those who are calling for Khawaja's to come and rescue Australian batting line up, please leave selection matters to selectors and Clarke. If Clarke doesn't like Khawaja or doesn't get along well with him, it's Khawaja's bad luck. Clarke is an absolute superstar and one of the best batsman in a long time. He should have the right to decide who he wants around him and in the dressing room and decision can't just be left on averages and performances as team culture is more important and strong captains build strong teams the way they like it. As far as Khawaja's concerned, he should have worked hard at gaining Clarke's approval.

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