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

The slaughter continues

Christian Ryan

July 9, 2004

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Tea Australia 0-223 (Langer 118*, Hayden 100*) v Sri Lanka
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Justin Langer: driving the Sri Lankans crazy © AFP
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Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden had shared double-century stands five times before today. Never, though, has it been quite like this. With barely a foot or hair out of place, and offering not the tiniest whiff of a chance, they carried Australia utterly serenely to a teatime score of 0 for 223.

Usually there is a hint of frenzy, an element of crossbat innovation, about their play. Today they ran hard singles and dispatched anything loose. Only occasionally, and then very deliberately, did they hit across the line or in the air. A short while after lunch, with the score on 121, Justin Langer snicked one comfortably shy of the slips cordon. Half an hour later Matthew Hayden, entirely out of the blue, got a bottom edge. And that was as close as Sri Lanka got.

Langer was the aggressor early, Hayden caught him up, Langer broke away again. But for the most part only their respective batting stances - Langer leaning forward eagerly, Hayden leaning back menacingly - told you who was who.

Hayden pounded two sixes in the second session, picking up a Chaminda Vaas outswinger early and lifting it elegantly over mid-on, then elegantly flicking Thilan Samaraweera over mid-off. Langer was keener to keep it on the ground. Upul Chandana, Sri Lanka's only specialist spinner, was brought on at 0 for 156. Langer crunched the first two balls of his second over for four - one through midwicket, the other an exquisite late-cut - and then a wild overthrow moments later brought up his hundred in 149 balls. Hayden's followed soon after in 153. Only boredom can stop them now.

Lunch Australia 0-92 (Langer 56*, Hayden 35*) v Sri Lanka
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Matthew Hayden was slow to start with but caught up with Langer in quick time © Getty Images
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Marvan Atapattu won the toss and chose to bowl this morning, and so kickstarted a familiar debate. Was he hoping to exploit the early-morning life and bounce, to shield his own top order from those same rumoured demons, or was he simply having a bet each way? Whatever the case, it backfired. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, offering broad bats and not a semblance of a chance, propelled Australia to 0 for 92 at lunch.

They did so with a string of immaculately timed, imperiously executed boundaries. Langer was particularly severe on Nuwan Zoysa in the early overs, launching into two savage pulls off the backfoot and two crunching cover-drives off the front. His lunchtime tally of 56 comprised 10 fours, most drilled along the ground and all of them clumped with a purposeful backswing. He power-walked off for lunch like he meant to go on.

Hayden, solid and watchful early, also blossomed towards drinks. He strode down and cracked Thilan Samaraweera, the part-time offspinner, over mid-on, then stood tall and pounded Zoysa through the same region, this time along the ground. Zoysa, in his five overs before lunch, went for 36; the rest of the attack gave up an altogether more respectable 56 in 23 overs.

The introduction of Samaraweera only eight overs into the Test had at least slowed Australia down. Lasith Malinga, the star debutant in Darwin, was again the most penetrative of the bowlers, despite being ignored until Langer and Hayden had already totted up 60. The pitch, as promised, offered plenty of bounce, but it was the batsmen who seemed to relish this most after the low and slow wicket that greeted them in Darwin last week.

As expected Ricky Ponting, leading his country for the first time in a home Test, was the only change from Australia's victorious XI in Darwin. Romesh Kaluwitharana was called up for his first Test in 12 months, replacing the perennially out-of-sorts Russel Arnold, and thus relieving Kumar Sangakkara of the burden of keeping and batting at No. 3.

This first morning dawned bright, warm and sunny, although the weather in Cairns does not hold quite the same guarantees as cloudless Darwin. Yesterday the pitch was covered and training interrupted by showers; today more are expected. So far, though, it has rained only boundaries. More, many more perhaps, are forecast.

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Christian Ryan Christian Ryan lives in Melbourne, writes and edits, was once the editor of The Monthly magazine and Wisden Australia, and now bowls low-grade, high-bouncing legbreaks with renewed zeal in recognition of Stuart MacGill's retirement and the selection opportunities this presents. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and Australia: Story of a Cricket Country
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