Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day August 31, 2011

'Driest first-day pitch I've played on' - Hussey


Michael Hussey, the Australia batsman, believes the tourists' 273 places them in a stronger position than would appear in the first Test against Sri Lanka on what he declared the "driest" first-day pitch he had encountered.

Without Hussey's steely 95, Australia would have been in a far poorer state, and as it is, are in a difficult position on a turning pitch when their spin resources consist of the debutant Nathan Lyon and the part-time fare of the captain Michael Clarke.

As he sought a positive spin on a day that resembled numerous others during last summer's Ashes series in terms of results if not conditions and opposition, Hussey said the success of Sri Lanka's seamers gave the visitors hope of a strong second day.

"It is certainly the driest first day pitch I've played on in Test match cricket," Hussey said. "Their quicks got wickets as well. They obviously got four of the wickets, got a bit of reverse swing, so we've got to use that to our advantage tomorrow hopefully. It certainly took a lot of turn on the first day but I thought in general, the guys played the spin pretty well.

"It was quite a difficult pitch to start on really. It was really slow so it was hard to find your timing initially. I guess my message was just to try and play as straight as possible and just try to hang in there for as long as you can because it does get easier the longer you go.

"Having said that, it's sort of an apprehensive feeling as well because there might be one ball that explodes and takes the glove or takes your edge and you're gone anyway. I think the message [to the other batsmen] is to try to play their game, be positive and just try to take time to get used to the pace of the pitch because it was a little difficult to time the ball early."

While he complimented the bowling of Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv, Hussey admitted he was surprised that Ajantha Mendis had not been chosen to test the Australians with his unusual variations.

"I wasn't sure at all what the make-up of their team would be. Maybe a little surprised that Mendis didn't play," Hussey said. "But having said that I thought their two spinners bowled really well. [They] obviously had a fair bit in their favour.

"I think that's one of the strengths of our batting order really. All of them play spin in their own way so that makes it hard for their spinners as well. I know all the guys have good experience and they will stick to their plan against their spinners no matter what the conditions."

Hussey was the last man out, lbw as he sought to farm the strike, and might have been able to reach his century if not for a misguided decision not to refer the lbw verdict against Ryan Harris. Both Hussey and Harris felt the umpire's initial call was right, but replays showed that while Harris had not offered a shot, the ball would have missed off stump.

"Yeah I think we mucked up there. We should have used the referral, we both probably thought it was out," Hussey said. "I asked Ryan and said 'what did you think' and he said he felt pretty much out, from my angle - which wasn't the best angle - it looked out but in hindsight we definitely made a mistake there. We should have referred it, especially with only a couple of wickets to go. We made a blue."

Much will rest on Lyon's ability to hold his own against Sri Lanka's batsmen on day two, and Hussey also said Clarke would have a part to play in setting the right fields for his inexperienced offspinner.

"It's just important for him to take away all the euphoria of his first Test," Hussey said. "That's going to be hard to do, with the excitement of it all, and just really focus on his job of bowling well. In the first-class match in Colombo, 'Pup' set some really good fields for him and I think that's going to be important tomorrow. A lot of in-out fields.

"The way they play, they will look to maybe try and dominate him and try to put some pressure on him. If we can have some protection in certain areas and keep our catchers around the bat then I think he's got a great chance. There's a lot in his favour but he's going to have to be patient, he's going to have to be disciplined and he's going to have to bowl a lot of overs. Big job for him tomorrow."

Herath, who was the pick of Sri Lanka's spinners, said Hussey had batted with great care for the scenario in front of him on a pitch he reckoned was not too far from the norm in Galle. Herath dismissed Shane Watson, Clarke and Ricky Ponting, but could not find a way past Hussey.

"I think he batted according to the situation, against myself and Suraj [Randiv]," Herath said. "The other three guys batted well too, but that time I have bowled well. That is a difference, the whole innings Michael Hussey batted really well."

As for Sri Lanka's goals on day two, Herath suggested a tally of 300 for 5 would be satisfactory as the hosts seek to bat Australia out of the match.

"I think, if we can bat through the first session without giving them a wicket, that's the best we can do against Australia," he said. "Definitely [we are happy], but if we can end up tomorrow at 300 for 5 [we will be in a good position] and I'm sure the guys can do that."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamish on September 1, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    The issue isn't turning pitches, you expect that in India & Sri Lanka and you can't complain about it at all. The issue was that on day 1 the ball was producing clouds of dust and there was variable bounce. However it happened this particular pitch is a poor one. If you play in Perth you'll get a bouncy pitch but the 96-97 pitch was atrocious because of the size and amount of cracking. Ambrose got run out when his bat literally got stuck in a crack and in the Aus 2nd innings Blewett got bowled by a grubber from Ambrose. A bouncy pitch at Perth is fair enough, that one was hugely sub-standard, similarly a pitch that turns is fair enough but this particular one was poor.

  • Christopher on September 1, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    SL managed 105 in 50 overs-the duration of a ODI.Game over in 3 days on an unplayable wicket.Who wins out of that? Not Test cricket.

  • sugar on September 1, 2011, 9:15 GMT

    to All SL fans my humble areal to you'll Please try not to comment or act like the fans of a certain "you know who country" who are playing a series in Europe , you guys have been so gracious up to now don't fall to that low standard , and the same to ozzie fans as well come on some comments from you here r beyond comprehension !! P.s : agreed I think this is a sub-standard pitch , but please try not to complain about "turning" pitches we r after all involved in a TEST series

  • sugar on September 1, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    Where are all those pitch whingers now?? I always thought aussis made an excellent score !!! Love to see those same oz complainers comment now, my bet on this match is for the ozzies , the SL innings I dont know how to describe it!!but you have to give it to the bowlers surely after all hussey did make 90+

  • django on September 1, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    Australia produce a wide range of pitches. People assume we produce fast bowling tracks which is rubbish. This has been brought about by having very good fast bowlers the last 15 years. England did not have any problems here last time. Most of our wickets help fast bowling the first day or two and then spin after that. We dont produce greentops unless the weather is involved. SL/Ind invariable produce dry featherbeds or dustbowls. And thats about it. You have two varieties which are both ordinary and only succeed in stunting any fast bowling development and making you look ridiculous overseas.

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    How was he whingeing? Just stating what was going on.

  • Ryan on September 1, 2011, 7:22 GMT

    There seems to be a lot of talk about doctoring pitches for home conditions. Australia producing quick tracks at home, SL, Ind producing dustbowls etc. You can expect some level of producing pitches that favours the home team. I believe the best pitches offer something for everyone. They are a true 'test' of each of the players abilities. Batsmen have to apply themselves, but so do bowlers. If I have an issue with some of the pitches produced it is that they are so flat that a draw bore is inevitable because there is no hope of taking 20 wickets. Or when you get a case of win the toss, win the match. I would say that this pitch heavily favours the side that wins the toss and bats first. The pitch is so dry that batting last will be almost impossible. This pitch doesn't really offer an even chance to both teams IMO. Not because the home side is heavily favoured, but because I think the team that wins the toss is too heavily favoured!

  • Marcio on September 1, 2011, 4:17 GMT

    The SLs have gone too far this time, and it will backfire. This pitch is not up to international standards, and I do not see why statingthis obvious point somehow unacceptable on an international cricket web site. By the forth day the ball willl be all over the place. It's already worse than most day 5 pitches. If SL don't have a team capable of winning under normal test conditions, they shouldn't be playing test cricket. AUS have put a good score on the board after making the right decision to bat. They will need to score 350 to stay in the game, and I can't see that happening.

  • Dave on September 1, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    What a lot of people don`t seem to realise is that comments such as Hussey`s, very fair, assessment of the pitch are invariably made in press conferences, in response to questions such as `how did you find the pitch?`

    Sub-continental journalists often seem particularly keen to imply that comments such as these are off-the -cuff whinges, or quote them out of context (Ponting`s comment during the World Cup).

    Hussey was simply making a reasoned response to a question re.pitch conditions.

    Too dry for a first day pitch? Definitely in my humble opinion.

  • safyaan on September 1, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    well we all know OZ are not very good when it comes to playing spin but that doesnt means you will never have to play on a spining track, when you are playing at professional level you have to be ready for any sort of conditions like when any team goes to AUS they have to play on the bouncy pitches which they are not used to. Hope to see a nice contest oz pace attack isnt bad eitha ........

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