Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle August 30, 2011

Debuts for Copeland and Lyon; Khawaja to play


Seamer Trent Copeland and offspinner Nathan Lyon will make their Test debuts for Australia in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle. Usman Khawaja edged Shaun Marsh out of the side, and will get his chance to bat at No. 6 in a line-up that was named one day early.

Lyon, who won the tussle for the lone spinner's spot with Michael Beer, is trained as a groundsman, and was seen in conversation with Greg Chappell, the selector on duty, before making a close inspection of the pitch. He extracted useful turn from the practice wickets either side of the match strip, though, appeared no more dangerous than Copeland, who beat the bat frequently.

It has been a most extraordinary rise for the 23-year-old Lyon, who until the first day of the tour match against Sri Lanka Board XI had never bowled in front of his captain Michael Clarke. Lyon made his debut for South Australia in the domestic Twenty20 tournament last year, where his performances won him rapid promotion to his state's Shield team and the Australia A team on the limited-overs leg of a tour of Zimbabwe. To date, he has taken 14 wickets in five first-class matches.

While there, he impressed all with his flight, loop and spin, and these aggressive attributes pushed him ahead of Beer, who played his first Test at the SCG at the conclusion of the Ashes. Lyon becomes the 11th spin bowler to be tried for Australia since Shane Warne retired in 2007. He will be used as an attacking, wicket-taking option by the tourists, who have arguably been given that option by Copeland's emergence as a stingy seam-up type not seen in Australian colours since Stuart Clark's time was up.

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said that while the surface will take spin, its dry nature would aid reverse-swing. The breeze from the Indian Ocean is also known to help the fast bowlers. Copeland is likely be used for long, tight spells while Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris tear in at the other end.

Michael Clarke acknowledged Copeland's strengths, which have also been cited by numerous locals, as likely to be exceptionally useful in Sri Lankan wickets. Also central to his thinking is the fact that Johnson and Harris will be more capable of slipping in quick, aggressive spells with the support of Copeland.

"The greatest advantage Copes has is his statistics in first-class cricket don't tell a lie," Clarke said. "There's a reason he's had success there and I'm certain it'll be the same reason he [will] have success for Australia. He's got great control. Very rarely do you see too many blokes hitting him with the middle of the bat consistently and I think that's because he's got good height and he just wobbles the ball enough. I'm a big wrap for him - I love his control, I love the way he bowled in the first game.

"He bowls a lot of overs for not many runs, so that's a great strength. In these conditions if the wickets are flat, it gives you the option to set fields he can bowl to. Because his pace is a little bit slower, he generally has more control so he can bowl more to a field than someone who is bowling at 150km/h."

There have been 12 outright results from the 17 Test matches played at the Galle International Stadium since 1998, nine of them enjoyed by the hosts. Only when rain intervenes, as it did when the Australians first played here in 1999, do the chances of a firm outcome dissipate.

Clarke, in his first Test as Australia's fully-fledged Test captain, could not help but notice the lack of grass on a good length at either end of the pitch. Whatever excess foliage remained in the middle had been shaved off by the ground staff by the time the Australians returned for their final training session.

"It looked dry at the ends yesterday; it looked like they had cut the grass off the ends but left the grass in the middle of the wicket," Clarke said. "But I got a phone call last night saying when we left the ground they shaved that as well. I don't know what happened after training but the wicket seemed to have changed.

"It's pretty hard as well; it will definitely spin but I don't know if it will spin [from] day one or day two. There might be a bit more pace and bounce than what we had in the practice game. It will spin, but it is just a matter of how early or how much."

Australia have misread overseas pitches before, no more disastrously than the dry surface for the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval in 2009, when no specialist spinner was chosen. However Clarke said it was important the tourists did not get spooked by the perceived threat of the conditions, and chose the combination most likely to succeed in the team's first Test since the horrors of the previous home summer.

"I just think with the first match of the series we've got to get the right combination," Clarke said. "If we think the quicks are going to be our best solution to take 20 wickets then we have to go with three fast bowlers no matter what Sri Lanka do, or no matter if we think it's going to spin. Looking at that wicket yesterday looks quite hard and dry and that will bring reverse-swing into play ... if it's hard there might be a bit more carry into play as well."

Australia XI for Galle: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Phil Hughes, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Usman Khawaja, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Trent Copeland, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 Nathan Lyon. (12th man - Michael Beer)

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on September 1, 2011, 11:22 GMT

    @youngkeepersdad...very tough call on Hughes who has opened with aplomb for over 100 innings,16 centuries and a 1st class average over 50.He is still only 22. It would be a hard critic indeed who blamed his technique for the brute of a delivery that took off from a length and took his wicket in the first innings. I cant imagine a technique that would have dealt with that ball. His 2nd innings LBW was also highly doubtful.There is no question in my mind that his technique is not at fault,nor his youth and i strongly believe,that given the support that has been absent since SA 09,that he will rise to great heights.He has the one ingredient that no technique can buy-character.Batting in SL has been a minefield for all batsmen on a pitch that warrants scathing criticism. Late on the 3rd day,the highest score by an opener is Paranavitanas 29 from over a hundred balls. While i understand your reasoning, i disagree with your conclusions.

  • Philip on September 1, 2011, 2:19 GMT

    The thing I'd say about Phil Hughes is that youth can succeed initially, but then they need the game to go on (or more likely to come back after subsequently failing). Doing it your own way is fine, but you need a core technique to fall back on. I'm not sure Hughes' core technique is that of an opener. And he's certainly not the one to partner Watson at the top of the order, because Watson's core technique is not exactly that of an opener either. Dare I say it, Katich fitted the bill better. Hughes' spot seems more like No 6. That's not to say they won't make runs together, but can such a partnership be reliable enough? The SL bowlers found a good line and length to Hughes and I wasn't surprised when his wicket fell. I still say that Australia is not teeming with quality openers at present.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2011, 9:11 GMT

    Aussies are playing statistics when it comes to spinning option. Greater numbers you try higher the probability that you discover a good option. Trouble really is that it does not work in cricket or any team sport. England were at the poorest best when they kept changing their teams and fielding duds and no hopers. If anything needs chopping and changing, its the selectors which happily board is doing.

  • Christopher on August 31, 2011, 8:35 GMT

    Again,@John Biddle, lets agree to disagree...I dont see pointing out 16 centuries in just over a hundred innings at over 50 as cherry picking...I dont consider 633 runs with 3 centuries in his last 4 first class games at an average of 90 and a List A 138 for Australia A at last start, as him being gifted his place...these are his most recent results and stand up in all company...His career achievements are a matter of public record and are there as a rebuttal to unwarranted vitriol, that addresses the effects with sagacity and the cause with myopic indolence ...the 1637 runs in 10 games serve as a juxtapoint for what immediately followed them and why it was worthy of observation,given the extreme disparity...ive identified what is in the public forum with regard to his lapsed form and to whom accountability should be others choose to view that information is outside my sphere of influence.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    Hyclass - you'll have to forgive my inability to see any valid comparison between chasing a small total on what had throughout the match been a good batting track against a pretty friendly NZ attack with batting first on a raging greentop in England against a Pakistan attack as strong as any in the world in those conditions. While I sincerely hope Hughes can make the success of test cricket he looked like he would in his first series I think it's fair to say he did not get back into the test side on performance and that he has to prove that he belongs there. To me, overstating his achievements and picking and choosing amongst his stats does not change that.

  • Christopher on August 31, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    With due respect @John Biddle,I disagree.Three months after Hughes hit 86* from 75 balls, to defeat NZ,Australia were bowled out and defeated in a Test match by a low rated Pakistan for 88. A number of articles identify Nielsen making significant changes to his game and technique before the Lions game in 09.Particularly damaging were attempts to remove his back foot trigger movement to leg,which is equivalent to Pontings forward press.This stopped his weight transfer into shots,leaving him out of position and unbalancing his game.His back foot technique and drive were also tampered with.It left him a sitting duck.A number of articles allude to it,including one by DeCosta,his and Clarkes long time mentor.An observant person would ask how a batsman with 1637 runs in 10 games on 3 continents,8 centuries,2 against a far better SA attack,before the Ashes,would suddenly struggle against a modest Harmison.Watch Hughes 115 & 160 v SA Youtube.Since dumping Nielsens changes,his game has returned

  • Philip on August 31, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    Have to diseagree with onlinegamer55's assertion that Geoff Marsh would struggle as a club player today (well, he might but then he's 52 now). I don't see too many test attacks as good today as the ones Marsh senior routinely faced. Shaun Marsh, however, appears less resilient and thus I'd have to agree that David Hussey is a bit overlooked.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2011, 4:01 GMT

    now its sun rising around tha galle.............its time 4 kangarooo soup

  • Basil on August 31, 2011, 3:41 GMT

    I don't feel sorry for Beer at all. He's got a baggygreen after a handful of FC games and a bowling av of 45. If you ask me, he's the luckiest man in the world. Just ask Jamie Siddons.

  • Bryn on August 31, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    cant believe marsh is left out! im furious. usie better score plenty of runs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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