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September 4, 2011
Shane Watson, the Australia vice-captain, has said his side bowled so well to Sri Lanka's batsman that they would have won the first Test in Galle even if they had lost the toss and fielded first.
After his side took a 1-0 lead in the series, Australia's captain Michael Clarke said he felt the toss had been critical, and decried a pitch on which that was so. But Watson said the Australia bowlers had been so disciplined and balanced in their work that bowling first would not have made much difference.
"To be able to win a Test match in Sri Lanka is a really good effort," Watson said. "I know batting first helped the cause but we did bowl very well as a group throughout the whole Test match and in the end I don't think it would have mattered that much whether we batted or bowled first.
"I thought we bowled as well as we have for a number of years. We were able sustain pressure for a long time and make it hard for Sri Lanka to score runs."
On a turning wicket, Australia's seamers accounted for 13 wickets in the Test, with Watson getting three in ten balls during a spell of reverse-swing bowling in the first innings, and then two in the second, including Kumar Sangakkara's scalp with a snorter of a short ball. He pointed to the performance of the fast bowlers as an example of just how well they had done as a bowling unit.
"We did get the best of the conditions batting first, but for our quicks to have an impact, especially in the second innings provides some confidence to us fast bowlers that will play a big part in the next two Tests.
"As a batting unit we have to capitalise on our starts; there's no doubt Michael Hussey batted beautifully in conditions where we didn't know what a good score was."
Ricky Ponting's absence from the second Test will be a blow to Australia's efforts to secure the series, as much in the field as with the bat, after he held a pair of rasping catches in the first innings, but Watson said the circumstances opened up an opportunity for Shaun Marsh.
"It will have some impact losing someone who has won 100 Test matches, which is a phenomenal achievement really, but it gives Shaun Marsh an opportunity as well. He has been batting beautifully over the last six months; he has a number of gears as a batsman and over here against the spin and the pace that will be important. That is the exciting thing about Ricky going home."
Tillakaratne Dilshan is adamant he won't change his aggressive style of batting after a pair of low scores in Galle, and Watson said that suited Australia. He pointed out that Ryan Harris had made Dilshan look decidedly uncomfortable by moving the ball in to him, denying him room to play through the off side..
"It's the way he plays isn't it, he's always batted like that and he's always backed himself. There's no doubt the ball coming back in to him provides a different ballgame compared to the ball going away from him so he can free his arms. So hopefully he keeps playing the way he does and we'll be able to execute our plans the way we did, like Ryan Harris in the second innings especially. Hopefully as a captain he won't have too much impact throughout the series."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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