Hostile Harris gets reward
Ryan Harris gave nothing away in Sri Lanka's first innings. He has received plenty in return so far in the second. Harris scooped 3 for 24 on day three as Australia closed in on a deserved victory, and rightly viewed his success as the reward for consistently hostile and accurate bursts, with both the new ball and the old.
Figures of 8-5-6-0 on the second day helped create much of the pressure that the spin debutant Nathan Lyon exploited, and Harris discovered his luck was further in the next day, when he started with a punchy 23 batting at No. 9. Taking the new ball after Australia were bowled out for 210 to set Sri Lanka a target of 379, Harris pinned Tharanga Paranavitana lbw first ball, and nearly had Kumar Sangakkara the same way with his next one. Both calls were marginal.
"It's good reward," Harris said. "I knew I wasn't far away in the first innings so I just wanted to do the same thing today and got some wickets, so it's very rewarding."
"I know the first one, to me, was out. I obviously didn't know where it pitched, but I swung it back in and that to me was dead, but obviously being told it wasn't, it pitched outside leg stump, and the second one maybe was closer. One of those things."
Australia's bowling has been outstanding for tightness, immaculate length and the consistency across the attack, fulfilling the wishes of the new bowling coach, Craig McDermott. Harris said the importance of the right length and the use of pressure had been paramount.
"That's what we tried to do, we planned that before we came over and we've been talking a lot about that as quick bowlers that's what we want to do," Harris said. "The wickets are pretty flat but the natural variation in the wicket is going to help us. With that old ball, I love bowling with the old ball, bowling in and out swingers and that sort of stuff.
"Shane Watson, the length he bowled in their first innings was great, and today with that ball to Sangakkara, that is what we're trying to do, exploit all those different conditions and hopefully the ball plays up for us."
Harris added his name to those of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting in calling the pitch the driest he has played on, and described the clouds of dust that sprang up when one of the pace bowlers slammed their front foot down on the crease.
"It is probably the driest. I haven't played on too many of those myself," Harris said. "I've been to India a few times, seen Kolkata which is pretty dry, but that one I haven't seen too many like it. With the footmarks and the holes that have formed and all the loose dirt, I think every time you see someone land and bowl there's a dust storm almost. So it's something I probably haven't seen before, and batting, I haven't really batted in those conditions. So it was a bit of learning out there, as well as trying to score runs, so it was interesting."
Australia are on course to resoundingly win their first Test since the loss of the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG in January, and Harris said the time in between had been well spent.
"It's no surprise, we just didn't play well in the Ashes, full stop, and we lost them," he said. "But we've done a bit of planning since then and forgot about them and worried about this Test series and the build-up to the next Ashes series I guess. That's the ultimate thing, but we've got a fair bit of cricket to play between now and then.
"For us, it was just trying to get back to playing well and consistent I guess. There's a few young players in the team, so get them involved and get them into the culture and get them performing, and that's what we've done so far."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo