Jayasuriya the key, says McGrath
Australia's back-to-form fast bowler Glenn McGrath has said that he will be targeting Sanath Jayasuriya's wicket when Sri Lanka begin their chase for 312 on the third day of the first Test at the Marrara Oval tomorrow.
McGrath roared back with 5 for 37 to knock Sri Lanka over for a paltry 97, and he is looking forward to repeating that performance in the second innings.
"Their top three is probably their key - Atapattu, Jayasuriya and Sangakkara," said McGrath. "We will be trying to make early inroads in there. Jayasuriya is always a big key to their batting line-up. He is probably the guy I'd target before the series. I want to get on top of him and knock him over a few times. If I can do that we could be well on our way to winning the series."
McGrath said he didn't think the pitch would improve or change that much from its present condition overnight, and that it would be a big ask for Sri Lanka to score 312 - over 100 more than Australia managed in either innings - on it.
"I think there will still be something on it with the new ball if you keep bowling in the right areas," he explained. "It is still hard to score runs. It is a little bit slow and the ball is not coming off it. It's hard work for the batsmen out in the middle with the new and the old ball. To win this match Sri Lanka's got to bat very well."
Turning to Australia's bowling, McGrath said: "We bowled pretty much to our plans on a wicket that is giving a little bit of assistance to the bowlers. We put enough pressure on them, put balls in the right area, and held our catches to knock 'em over for 97. It would be nice to do something similar in the second innings."
And he went on: "It is good to see a pitch being of some assistance for the bowlers. I think wickets around the world are getting good to bat on. When a side scores 400 runs in a day nobody says the wickets are not good for the bowlers. I don't think many bowlers would be disappointed bowling on that kind of pitch."
McGrath said that he never doubted that he would regain fitness, and was confident that he could make a comeback from his ankle injury - although he admitted that at one point during the four-day warm-up game that preceded this Test he had seriously thought of retiring after he bowled disappointingly in the first innings. He said that it was his team-mate Justin Langer who got him thinking, when he told him that you don't think of retirement until you hit rock-bottom.
McGrath said that his comeback performance was inspired by the fact that he was only a few wickets away from passing fast bowlers Sir Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev's individual records. "To get those five wickets and go past two legends of the game is a pretty big bonus to get my confidence back for the match," he said. "I couldn't have asked for more."
Kumar Sangakkara Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper/batsman
Kumar Sangakkara had a good day behind the stumps at Darwin, taking four catches and pulling off a run-out in the Australian second innings of 201. But he admitted that it was a big challenge for Sri Lanka to chase 312 and win the Test.
"When you look at the totals the two teams have got on this track it's not been high. It's going to be a challenge and most of the guys are looking forward to it," he said. "They all want to do well. Basically we want to do what we do best. See the new ball off and then play your own game. Be positive and play to win. The pitch is very hard to read. It is better to go and see what it does and play accordingly. It is drier than it was yesterday. The pacies have got a little bit more bounce, but the movement's been the same. It is up to us now to get the total."
Turning to his persona;l performance, Sangakkara said: "It's always nice to take some catches. I felt good. It was one of my best days, taking four catches in an innings. It's always good to have a chat with Ian Healy. who is an all-time great wicketkeeper. Ian spoke to me in Zimbabwe and in Morocco. He told me to keep it very simple and very basic. I have taken the best out of what he has told me."