Bowlers lift spirits after giving Queensland a scare
Queensland 295 & 6 for 142 (Perren 62*) beat Sri Lankans 9 for 210 dec & 226 (Vaas 84) by 4 wickets
Performances in tour games should not be used to dismiss a team's Test chances, but the batting displays from the Sri Lankans against Queensland have provided plenty of concern. The top and middle orders struggled in both innings before help came from lower down, and it was the bowlers who frightened the hosts again as they sneaked home by four wickets.
With Queensland needing 142 for victory, Farveez Maharoof surged through the first three batsmen and Lasith Malinga's searing yorkers accounted for Chris Simpson and Andy Bichel in consecutive balls. The Bulls had suddenly lost 5 for 16 and an easy chase of 142 became a seriously difficult one. Clinton Perren (62 not out) absorbed the pressure, coped with the loss of Chris Hartley and led the Bulls with support from Ashley Noffke's 21.
Maharoof, who had six victims for the game, collected a trio of edges, including the important one of Andrew Symonds, who could not make an impact in either innings ahead of his first Test in Brisbane. Mahela Jayawardene grabbed the stunning left-handed catch at second slip to make sure the visiting batsmen will not be the only ones feeling uncertain before heading to the Gabba on Thursday.
It is almost impossible to win matches against Australia with a fragile line-up and while the home attack will miss Glenn McGrath there are still plenty of threats for tentative shot-makers. The main worries for the Sri Lankans, who will be without the injured Kumar Sangakkara, are that their captain Mahela Jayawardene and the opener Sanath Jayasuriya have struggled for runs in the springy Queensland conditions.
The senior players will be heavily targeted by the Australians and the final day of the tour match at Allan Border Field started with the Sri Lankans hoping Jayawardene would add significantly to his overnight 22. However, the shoulders of the tourists slumped when he edged trying to drive Mitchell Johnson and finished with a double of 35 and 0.
A firmer, bouncier pitch than the one produced here is likely for the Gabba, which will intensify the difficulties with rising deliveries. Eight of the Sri Lankans' second-innings dismissals fell to catches in the cordon as Johnson, Noffke, Michael Kasprowicz and Bichel caused the discomfort. In the final session Sri Lanka returned some of the pain.
Queensland's fast-bowling duties were scaled back after lunch when the legspinner Daniel Doran was given 10.5 overs and was dominated by Chaminda Vaas. Vaas, who outshone his more accomplished team-mates with a sparkling 84 from 76 balls, was the reason the Sri Lankans reached 226.
After watching his batsmen fail, Vaas strode out and quickly stepped into boundary mode. Bichel and Symonds were both hit for two fours in an over between point and cover and Vaas' half-century arrived after 40 balls. His two sixes then came from Doran, who finished the innings when Vaas clipped to midwicket. Malinga had joined the late rally by thrashing Johnson for three fours in an over during a short battle that will be resumed over the next week.
The bright conclusion came after the dark start to the Sri Lankans' morning. Noffke opened with another breakthrough early in his spell when he forced Chamara Silva to deflect a short ball to Maher at second slip, dropping the Sri Lankans to 5 for 64. They were again troubled by Noffke's pace and movement and he picked up 3 for 21 on the way to match figures of 8 for 57.
Jayawardene tried unsuccessfully to steer his side and Maharoof, who is a contender for No. 7 in the first Test, was upset by the lift created by Kasprowicz and edged to Perren. Prasanna Jayawardene offered some promise with a half-century in the first innings and he again seemed in control, hooking a Symonds long-hop for six. However, Jayawardene's resistance ended on 22 when he became Kasprowicz's third victim and the side was in deep trouble at 8 for 133. Vaas arrived in a hurry, but his performance could not mask the dangerous problems at the other end of the order.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo