Copeland boosts selection chances
A too-thin layer of sunblock was about the only mistake Trent Copeland made on his first day as an Australian cricketer as he knocked over Sri Lanka Board XI's top order on his way to figures of 5 for 47. If those figures are an accurate indicator of his quality, and based on the calibre of the victims it is difficult to argue that they aren't, there are likely to be many more days in an Australian shirt to come.
Chief among his victims was Thilan Samaraweera, the middle order batsman with an average of 54.08 in Tests. Copeland reckoned that was the most satisfying of his wickets, but there was also Tharanga Paranavitana, the Test opener, and Angelo Mathews, the allrounder who was recently named Sri Lanka Test vice-captain.
"Samaraweera is a guy who is entrenched in their middle order and he's averaged 60-odd in Test cricket for the last few years," Copeland said. "To build some pressure on him and get him to play a loose shot like that - it probably wasn't the best ball I bowled all day, but that's something I aspire to do is take Test wickets, so for me he is a Test player and it is something I can measure myself against.
"I'm absolutely stoked to have played my first real game as an Australian cricketer and to have taken five wickets is absolutely astonishing. We've still got a second innings to play in this game and I'm just absolutely enjoying where I'm at the moment. Opening the bowling for an Australian side, getting some nicks through to Brad Haddin and talking to Michael Clarke about field settings and stuff like that, it's a little bit beyond my wildest dreams. I said to myself I needed to make an impression when I got here and hopefully I have done."
The Board XI began in a manner that might have frustrated a less focused touring side, scrapping to 82 for no loss before Copeland struck with the last ball before lunch. Regular wickets ensued once play started after the interval and by stumps the Australian openers were in firmly entrenched at the crease.
"I think it was all about patience," Copeland said. "We spoke before the game and at length at lunch about the lengths we were going to bowl and about being patient and I suppose I got the rewards. The boys all bowled well and in different patches I got rewards where the other guys were bowling well as well.
"Early on it [the pitch] was a little bit tacky and seamed around a little bit, but overhead conditions and the on-field conditions allowed the ball to go reverse a little bit for us, so that's a good sign and something we can expect over the Test series, so getting used to bowling a little bit of reverse swing is always going to be helpful, but yeah conducive to fast bowling is about results.
"It's not about how much swing you get, I think it's just about being patient and you get the rewards when you build some dots and build some pressure. People obviously know I can bowl long spells and today was a really good hit-out, getting out there today and bowling some long spells. It's hot over here, the wickets are flat, the opposition are very talented, so you've just got to be able to bowl, and bowl and bowl until you get them out."
Reverse swing was cited as one area of Australian deficiency in the pages of the Argus report, but Copeland said the tourists had managed to get the ball swinging against the shine on a dry pitch and wicket square. Peter Siddle, not the best of the bowlers with figures of 0 for 55 from 11 overs, was nonetheless important as the custodian of the ball.
"Peter Siddle did most of it today, he's one guy who doesn't sweat too much and keeps the ball dry and looks after it," Copeland said. "But it doesn't matter where you play in the world you've got to look after the ball, whether it is for genuine swing or reverse. But I think we got our head around how we can make it go reverse and when we do we've got some good bowlers to take advantage plus two good spinners to bowl at the same time."
As for the only mistake of his day, Copeland's red face is not something that should be seen too many more times this tour. "I'm a little bit sunburnt, but I'll learn from that, I'll put some more on tomorrow," he said. On the evidence of his bowling, Copeland is among the fastest of learners.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo