Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle August 28, 2011

Slow and steady Copeland winning the pace race


For a long time Trent Copeland's lack of pace was held against him. Australia's captain Michael Clarke now believes this very quality can aid the tourists in their pursuit of pressure and wickets against Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle from Wednesday.

Clarke and Greg Chappell, the selector on duty, have often spoken of "combinations" as they seek to establish the best XI with which to trouble the Sri Lankans. Copeland appeared an unlikely addition to the Test team when he departed from Sydney, considered behind at least Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in the order of preference.

But a match haul of 6 for 61 from 28 overs against Sri Lanka Board XI at P Sara Oval, while Siddle went wicketless and Johnson was rested, has all but vaulted Copeland into the team for Galle, and Clarke said the seamer's tightness and lesser velocity would ideally complement the faster men.

"It is very important, because what it allows you to do is build pressure from one end and attack a little bit more from the other," Clarke said. "It's a huge string to his bow to be honest and I think for the team, and I say this with the ultimate respect, it's nearly like his lack of pace could be a really good thing for us.

"He just nibbles and just wobbles the ball enough [so] that it doesn't come onto the bat like Sidds, Ryano and Mitch, who are bowling 140kmh, [and] kiss the wicket and come on quite quick. There's just enough nibble there; in this game, the attack we had, he complemented it very well I thought."

In February, Chappell had suggested there were players in the Sheffield Shield, who felt Copeland "might struggle to back it up this year" for New South Wales, a reference to the fact that few bowlers of medium pace can keep asking questions of opponents without being brazenly attacked. However Copeland's lines have not wavered, proving that bounce and movement, as much as speed, are the keys to troubling good batsmen.

"He did his thing, nothing more, nothing less," Clarke said. "He managed to find the edge a few times, which is really nice, and as a captain it feels comforting to set fields to that type of bowling.

"He got a few of the players out, who are going to be playing in the first Test, so that obviously helps. And I like that he hasn't come in and tried to do too much. He's done what he's been doing for NSW for the last few years now. I think that takes courage, as a first-class player, when you come into the Australian team to not try and do anything different."

Difference was a more prominent theme as Clarke observed his slow bowlers Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon. Clarke spent considerable time shuffling his fields as he developed ways to attack and defend with two spinners he is not overly familiar with, and said he and the selectors had to decide which qualities they preferred.

"They're completely different bowlers," Clarke said. "Lyon probably bowls with a lot more loop and gets a lot more shape. Beer bowls a bit faster and gets it into the wicket, so they've both got strengths. I thought Beery bowled really well when it started to spin a bit, especially to the left hander.

"He could throw it into the rough and as we saw, a few balls went through the gate. I'm impressed with both of them. As a combination they're very good together because they're two completely different bowlers. If we have to pick one it's going to be a tough selection."

Though Beer and Lyon were patchy in their performances and though Copeland, Harris and Johnson would all appear to have enough quality and adaptability to ask questions on Sri Lankan pitches, Clarke refused to rule out playing two spinners in Galle.

"No way, I think it was good for both of them to play this game," Clarke said. "I thought they bowled really well as a combination. You've just got to see the conditions, I think that's probably the fairest way.

"I need to see what the pitch is like and we the selectors need to work out what's our best XI to try and win the game. That's what is important to me - my goal is not to come here and have three draws. We are here to win the series so we've got to pick the best eleven players to win the game."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    Can't wait for this test, everyone should be holding their breath for Copeland to get a BaggyGreen, he is EXACTLY what this team needs. Having so sadly lacked any semblance of control since the departure of Mcgrath and then Clark. I'd like to see Khawaja at 6, he performed in the tour game, to me a young star in the making should get a go when they are coming into form like that, particlarly as there is no incumbent. Getting them into the team in form leaves you in no doubt about their ability, no second guessing, they are either good or enough or they are not. My team: Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Khawaja, Haddin, Johnson, Harris, Copeland, Lyon. Not at all convinced about Hughes but at least he's making runs, i think Marsh and even Warner have a far tighter technique. I'd really like to have had Hauritz at least available but i'm pretty sure he's injured? I'm not at all convinced like others are about O'Keefe, just looks like another dart thrower to me. Develop Smith.

  • Terry on August 29, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    I would go in with 4 batsmen, 1 alrounder, 1 wicky, 2 pace, 1 medium & 2 spin. My line up would be: Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Michael Beer, Trent Copeland.

    Whilst this would leave us short in the batting department, Srilanka is a spinning country and we dont have enough experience to go in with only one spinner. Also we need two open bowlers that bowl fast pace whilst also having Copeland and Watson as medium pacers.

    With 4 bowlers, bowling ranges are 20 - 25 overs each day. You loose one player and thats 30 overs each. With 6 bowlers (inc Watson) bowling ranges will be 12 to 18 allowing. This will allow bowlers to be fresh and not have to bowl long spells. Clarke shouldnt be bowling as he should focus on his batting and Captancy.

    With 6 batsman (inc wicky) the bowlers will need to stand up and be counted when batting. I believe that Johnston & Ryan can fill in for #7 batsmen.

  • Rahul on August 29, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    Looks a promising pace bowler for the Aussies. His lack of pace should add variety to the bowling options at Clarke's disposal. If he can maintain his identity and stick to line and length, then he can go a long way... McGrath was not express pace, but was one of the best pacemen in recent times... Good luck Trent Copeland... do well young man..

  • Jeremy on August 29, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    Bring Mitchell Marsh in!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    The selectors have a very hard job for this match, really all the batsman in the squad have earned a spot. I just dont know how u can pick between Khawaja and Marsh. Its gonna be a tough call, Marsh has a solid ODI record, has been in blistering form in state cricket and IPL for last 2 years, but Khawaja is more of a "test" style batsman and has a better technique, he also has one test cap under his belt already and he played well on debut. Is his century in the tour game enough for him to keep his spot? Also is Khawaja the best at number 6, because Marsh will likely score at a faster pace because its his natural game to play shots. Theoretically they could both play, but in reality i cant see australia leaving out Ponting or Hussey, especially now Clarke is a selector. My gut feeling is Shuan Marsh will play the 1st test and Khawaja won't. Also which spinner would u pick? they both havent looked great, but neither has done too badly either. I would go with Lyon

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2011, 7:15 GMT

    I have been more than interested in Trent Copeland's career from the his first first class appearance when he bagged an 8 for..Lack of pace we know but look at his stats for lbw's, caught/wicketkeeper and bowled. In the last match all 6 were as stated. I would guarantee %75 have been the same with his almost 100 wickets. As old as cricket is there is no substitute for line and length.

  • Hemant on August 29, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    No need for two spinners. their strength in this tour will be their batting. India crippled in england due to batting aussie need to concentrate on batting 1st. Marsh is good player..and don't worry about his temperament. Initially everyone said the same for Sehwag...Khawaja is good for middle order. unleash watson and marsh as openners and let them score quickly before spinners comes on. Let Marsh play a Hayden or bowling get in 3 quality bowlers. Harris, Johnson and Copeland and one spinner like Beer lyon; clarke can bowl too. let them be the duo..4 specialist bowlers, 2 allrounders watson and clarke..that side looks comfortable

  • LM on August 29, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    @inefekt. One of the problems is that there is still a large emphasis on fitting into the team structure (basically selection is partially a popularity contest). It sucks but that's why Hodge never got much of a run and also to a lesser extent Macgill. I'm with you though, O'Keefe isn't a test spinner. That being said Beer sucks balls too. At least when Smith is there I can pretend i'm watching Warnie having an off day.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    The lack of selection of Hauritz & O'Keefe still baffles me, O'Keefe averages 36 with the bat and 24 with the ball, and Hauritz has proven himself to be reliable at test level. It seems to me (and many other people it would seem) that not picking your best spinners is just insane...

  • Christopher on August 29, 2011, 3:08 GMT

    The day that cricket decides that youre not out,because the bowling wasnt quick enough,didnt turn enough,didnt swing enough,had a poor action,was from the wrong state,was too short,the player wasnt young enough or fit enough,the batsmens runs dont count because his technique isnt good enough or he isnt left or right handed-thats the day that 99% of the rubbish and theories and sheer fantasy that bloggers put on this site will actually have been energy well spent. Until then,the only purpose of cricket,is most runs and wickets wins,promoting endurance and adaptability,building courage,teamwork and national ethos and creating a legacy of excellence and integrity,based on results,that can be passed with pride to our children,as it was passed to us.

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