Sri Lanka's bowlers fight back after top-order failure
Queensland 4 for 60 trail Sri Lankans 9 for 210 dec (P Jayawardene 52*, Atapattu 48, Noffke 5-36) by 150 runs
Sri Lanka's batsmen missed a crucial opportunity to adjust to the Queensland conditions ahead of next week's Test and were knocked down on the first day of the tour game by Ashley Noffke. The tourists received an early taste of what the Gabba would be like next week and their top order failed to cope with the tricky bounce and early movement from an attack led by Noffke's 5 for 36 and supported by Mitchell Johnson, Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz.
However, there was encouragement with the performance of the bowlers as they reduced Queensland to 4 for 60 when bad light stopped play 5.4 overs early. Lasith Malinga was a difficult prospect under dark clouds and he captured Jimmy Maher and Chris Simpson while Farveez Maharoof removed Ryan Broad and Andrew Symonds. Symonds' Test warm-up ended on 22, an innings which included three consecutive boundaries off Malinga and finished with an edge to Prasanna Jayawardene.
Jayawardene, the batsman-wicketkeeper who will play in Brisbane after Kumar Sangakkara's hamstring injury, and Marvan Atapattu were the only members of the top seven who made an impression as the Sri Lankans reached 9 for 210 before declaring to allow their bowlers an opportunity in the sultry conditions. It was a worrying performance and the batsmen have only one more innings to fine tune for the first Test.
Sanath Jayasuriya (0), Michael Vandort (4) and Mahela Jayawardene fell in the morning to Noffke and Chamara Silva (0) was run-out chasing an unnecessary second. While Jayasuriya dusted off with a century in the previous match in Adelaide, Jayawardene has looked unconvincing since arriving in Australia and picked up a second zero.
Jayawardene lasted only six balls before Noffke had him lbw playing from the crease, which left the Sri Lankans at 3 for 14 after Jayasuriya pushed to gully and Vandort edged to first slip. Noffke was particularly impressive in his first spell, taking 3 for 7 off 11 overs, and he kick-started the opening session, which finished when Atapattu was out cutting on 48, leaving the Sri Lankans at 6 for 81.
"It was a bit of hard work in the morning," Atapattu said. "We were taken by surprise more than anything by the sideways movement. We expected the wicket to be harder and bouncier. But you shouldn't have any doubts about our talent and ability going into a Test."
Noffke was again heavily involved after lunch, collecting Maharoof and Chaminda Vaas, who fell to a sharp caught-and-bowled, and he took his third five-wicket haul of a fine season to justify his elevation to the new ball ahead of Bichel and Kasprowicz. "It's never been done before and it's strange," he said.
"They're two guys who I've learnt a lot from in the past, standing at mid-off and watching them. It's a good learning experience and it's just the evolution of cricket, we're all going to retire or step down and let the younger guy through."
Fortunately for the Sri Lankans, Prasanna Jayawardene was able to push them towards respectability with the help of Maharoof (20) and Malinga Bandara, who struck eight fours and a six off Daniel Doran's legspin in his 43. Jayawardene's responsibilities have increased with Sangakkara's injury and he showed his capabilities during his half-century. Like Atapattu, Jayawardene cut well and hit nine boundaries in his unbeaten 58, which came from 130 balls.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo