SL Board XI v Australians, Colombo, 1st day August 25, 2011

Copeland five-for restricts SL Board XI to 258


Australians 26-0 trail Sri Lanka Board XI 258 (Chandimal 59, Copeland 5-47) by 232 runs
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At a time when the pay structure of Australia's cricketers has been questioned, Trent Copeland represents tremendous value for money. He nabbed 5 for 47 against Sri Lanka Board XI to make a compelling case for selection in the first Test in Galle next week.

Possessing neither a Cricket Australia contract nor a Twenty20 Big Bash League deal, Copeland thus subsists on a state contract with New South Wales. The Argus review's recommendations about the need to use performance as the primary reason for selecting and paying players would appear to have been written with cricketers like Copeland in mind.

Having forced the hand of the national selectors' via the old fashioned path of taking wickets in vast quantities, the 25-year-old Copeland also serves as a reminder that a good deal of talent remains in the Sheffield Shield, despite its apparent decline over the past handful of summers.

Following Copeland's incisions, the spin bowlers Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon assisted in restricting Board XI to 258 at Colombo's P Sara Oval, as captain Michael Clarke assessed his options in the field after losing the toss. Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja then took the Australians to 26 for no loss at the close.

Harris, with 2 for 39, rivalled Copeland as the sharpest member of the Australian bowling quintet, Copeland showing stamina, subtle movement and immaculate line while Harris was swift and moved the ball with bounce. Their success, and the minimal threat posed by Peter Siddle (0 for 55 in 11 overs), brought Australia's likely Test pace attack into sharper focus. Harris and Mitchell Johnson appear likely to provide the speed and Copeland the reliability.

Of the Board XI's batsmen, Tharanga Paranavitana survived more than he thrived in reaching 49, and Dinesh Chandimal's 59 arrived too late to prevent his omission from the Sri Lanka Test squad after a poor run with the bat in the ODI series. The captain, Angelo Mathews, played haltingly before he was bowled by the unerring Copeland.

Fielding first on a pitch friendly to batsmen, the Australians had given a first outing to the five bowlers - Harris, Siddle, Copeland, Lyon and Beer - called up exclusively for Test match duty.

A handful of spectators were treated to the rare sight of Ricky Ponting running drinks as he was spelled from tour duty alongside Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson and James Pattinson. There were a few bowlers in need of them as the humidity drew plenty of sweat, but neither Harris nor Copeland were able to draw edges in their opening bursts despite beating the bat consistently.

More runs had accrued from the edges of the bat than the middle by the time Lyon was introduced for his first bowl in front of Clarke, who would have been entitled to ask 'and what is it that you do?' before handing him the ball. Lyon gained some turn from the start and demonstrated the enticing loop that had so encouraged the national selectors, but he also dropped short, either side of a brief rain delay, as Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne neared lunch.

Their stand was broken by what became the final ball of the morning session when Thirimanne edged a Copeland delivery angled across him to be caught behind for 32. Copeland is the most dependable of practitioners, hitting the same awkward line and length ball upon ball with a little movement either way. His pace is strictly medium, but swift enough to prevent most batsmen from surviving if they miscalculate. With a method minted for long-form cricket, he looks like a Test bowler.

Soon after the resumption Paranavitana played back to Copeland when he might have been forward to a ball that straightened, and was given lbw. A partnership followed between Chandimal and Bhanuka Rajapaksa in which the former played the aggressor, dancing down to loft Lyon over mid-on.

Unsurprisingly it was the probing Copeland who broke the stand, coaxing an edge from Rajapaksa that was again held by Brad Haddin, this time diving superbly low to his left. This created an opportunity for Harris to exploit, which he did in the following over when Chandimal sliced a loose back foot push at a ball delivered from around the wicket to gully.

From 171 for 4 at tea, Mathews was soon beaten on the back foot by a Copeland delivery that arrowed into him and may have kept a fraction low, before Thilan Samaraweera lashed out wildly at a rare wider offering from the same bowler and was caught behind. It was Copeland's fifth haul of five wickets in 18 first-class matches.

Silva squeezed Beer to silly point where Khawaja held a neat catch, and Lyon claimed a victim when Kosala Kulasekara swung to deep midwicket. Dilruwan Perera's inside edge onto pad was snapped up by Haddin, and Harris deservedly collected Thisara Perera after a nuisance partnership of 49 for the final wicket.

Neither Lyon (1 for 71) nor Beer (2 for 39) were particularly mesmeric, though the offspinner turned the ball past the bat more than once and drew the local batsmen down the pitch more readily than his left-arm orthodox counterpart. Nevertheless, Beer bowled tidily after tea and chimed in with a pair of wickets to finish the day with more attractive figures. Haddin held five catches, one of them brilliant.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richard on August 26, 2011, 10:35 GMT

    @Trueman's_Ghost-Copeland's tall, accurate, and will ideally bowl just short of a driving length, land it on the seam, and get it to noodle a little either way. Just what the attack needs I reckon if you're going to take MJ into a test, with his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. Doubly so if you're not too sure about your spinner, just in case MJ has a shocker and the tweaker gets butchered. If that happens Copeland will be able to bowl a lot of overs and (hopefully) tie up an end.

  • Merv on August 26, 2011, 9:39 GMT

    Why is O'Keefe not playing? He should be. Why is Copeland playing? No contract, not selected initially and every cricket follower in Australian knew he would be good, but not the dumb selectors. They picked .... Siddle. Groan. when will we learn?

  • Grant on August 26, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    Will be an interesting test series for a neutral (if such a thing exists!). Hopefully they will be televised in the UK. I'm curious to see Marsh and Khawaja, who aussies onheare have been raving about for a long time. Also interested to see this Copeland. What sort of bowler is he (Biggus? Meety?). Casting a (granted only semi-informed) eye over the Australian squad team it looks like there should be some runs in it but I don't fancy the attack much, especially on Sri Lankan flat tops. Johnson might be brilliant, but probably won't. Can Harris stay fit? I can't see Siddle doing much, the spinners are work-a-day and, although i know he has a decent record, I can't get wild about Bollinger. Mind you you could say much the same of SL and with the reputation of flat tracks out there there may not be many results. Still I've been wrong before

  • Christopher on August 26, 2011, 8:36 GMT

    So@Blake Houston,Harmison,with a modest average and S/R and renowned for spraying the ball all over the shop and not being the sharpest tool in the shed,used his incisive reasoning and relentless,pressure building skill,to target a weakness on Hughes that no other bowler had ever found.Meanwhile,those unintelligent,wasteful and poorly skilled SA bowlers,Steyn,Ntini,Morkel,Kallis and Harris,with 1100+Test wickets at a far better S/R and average,bowled gentle short balls and half volleys outside off,session after session to Hughes without ever bowling 145kmh + at his body?Youre basically calling all fast bowlers everywhere,stupid and talentless.His supposed weakness is a myth.He succeeds when Nielsen isnt forcing changes in his batting technique which are completely unworkable,as he did before the 09 Lions game and has continued to do at Test level since.Thats why we are reading that Hughes will do it his way.Because his way,means not Nielsens,who is still the coach on this tour.

  • Jason on August 26, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    Not much suprise with Hughes, the balls not whistling past his throat, in around the ribs or moving off the seam, so I'd expect him to get a few 'easy' runs.

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    Hahaha, yes blake, Australian domestic bowlers never thought to not to bowl wide to Hughes in his multiple seasons of state cricket, they only play in the strongest domestic competition in the world. If only they were smart like those county cricket bowlers who he flogged mercilessly in his stints over there. I like your theory though, bowl tight to him and he'll struggle to score, he must be the only batsman that would work on right? I'm sure he doesn't know how to turn things to leg though, and as a short bloke I doubt he's faced much short stuff in his career. But I guess not everyone can play the short stuff like Steve Waugh. Calm down those talking about O'Keeffe, he's from NSW alright! He'll be in the team soon enough, whether worthy or not. And I agree with those saying 'no Siddle', why play the 26 year old quick with big motor when you can play the 31 year old with the permanently crocked knee who might just swing it a bit more.

  • Al on August 26, 2011, 8:12 GMT

    The SL test bowlers were aptly described as 'toothless' in the recent tour of England although SL, unlike the whitewashed Indians, did just lose narrowly. This SL board attack is not just 'toothless' but hasnt even got false teeth. I wouldnt read much into the Aussie batting here as even Boycotts famous granny could score like Bradman off these 'no hopers'. In the meanwhille SL's best Test bowler Chaminda Vaas, put into pasture by their former captain & Selectors, is proving to be one of the best bowlers in county cricket (Northamptonshire) if not the best!

  • Basil on August 26, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Dismayed, you make the same mistake as our selectors when you talk of Smith. The idea of picking Smith because you believe he WILL be a good player is firstly unfair on him and also others competing for the same spot. A player should be chosen on form ala Copeland as they have good performance behind them when stepping up to this level. When a player out of form is chosen and he fails, it kills his confidence, and public perception is that the guy is undeserving of a baggygreen. This is now where Smith is at. Had he not played in the Ashes (before he was ready) people would not feel so negatively toward him. I blame the selectors, not Smith. May he go back to Shield, score runs, take wickets, EARN his spot and perform at the highest level if he is deserving of it.

  • Harshvardhan on August 26, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    All aussies having a go at siddle and bollinger I tell u what if they were indians they would have pipped out sreesanth,ishant,praveen for their places our fast bowling stocks are awful to say least no culture to bowl fast on dead pitches I think u should sympathize with these two blokes

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2011, 4:24 GMT

    @leassey, have u not seen Phil hughes flog 99/100 short and wide balls to the boundary?? His best shot is the cut shot and if u bowl short and wide at him u are bowling into his strength. Hughes weakness if u knew anything about cricket, is short bowling directed at his body, Hughes seldomly plays the pull shot in longer form cricket and he instead ducks and fends his bat at good short bowling. If u can keep the ball straight on the stumps or directed short at his body then he wont score runs, that is why he makes so many runs in state games because the bowlers are less disciplined he punishes anything a touch wide. Thats why eng;and found him out because they are accurate and smart enough to continuosly bowl to his weakness and not offer him anything he can cut. also leassey, Paine, bollinger and O'Keefe arent in the squad so u cant pick them, and putting down 2 players for each position isnt selecting a team. Don't post if u don't know what your talking about.

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