Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 1st day September 8, 2011

All-round Australia dominate first day


Australia 60 for 0 (Watson 36*, Hughes 23*) trail Sri Lanka 174 (Mathews 58, Harris 3-38) by 114 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

This Test series is only five days old, but already Michael Clarke's Australians can sense victory. Their win inside four days in Galle was impressive, but even more encouraging for the country's fans was the way Australia started the second Test in Pallekele, as an attack led by Ryan Harris bundled Sri Lanka out for 174 on a good batting pitch, and then the openers took the score to 60 for 0 before bad light stopped play.

Shane Watson was on 36 and Phillip Hughes had made 23, and both men had played some wonderful shots, showing just how friendly the surface was. Australia know about one-sided days like these. They've been on the wrong side of a few over the past couple of years. This time it was Sri Lanka's turn to wonder what more could have gone wrong.

Their problems started before a ball was even bowled, as their best spinner from the previous Test, Rangana Herath, was ruled out due to a finger injury. If that wasn't bad enough, the man they wanted to replace him, the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, woke up with a sore back, and rather than risk him, they named the legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna for his debut.

Things started to look up when Tillakaratne Dilshan won the toss and chose to bat on a pitch that, compared to last week's Galle dustbowl, seemed like a road. It was the last thing that went right for Sri Lanka for the entire day. They stumbled to 14 for 3 and Michael Hussey at gully take a screamer to get rid of the centurion from the first Test, Mahela Jayawardene, but there was one moment that encapsulated the day.

It came when the world's fifth-ranked Test batsman was dismissed by the 125th-ranked bowler. Kumar Sangakkara had been steering Sri Lanka out of trouble, and had made a patient 48 when Michael Clarke asked Hussey to have a trundle. Hussey, 36, delivers gentle medium-pacers and had taken only two Test wickets: Paul Harris and Dwayne Bravo, both of whom had been caught in the deep.

However, Sangakkara's concentration lapsed and he prodded Hussey's third ball straight to short cover. Hughes took the catch, the Australians mobbed Hussey, and he went on to complete a wicket maiden. Hussey was in shock. So were Sri Lanka.

The only highlight for the hosts was a fighting half-century from Angelo Mathews, who showed similar resilience in the first Test. He played some fine strokes, including lofting a six off Nathan Lyon's offspin, but even more impressive was the six he slammed down the ground off Harris to bring up his fifty.

But Mathews was running out of partners, and he was caught behind for 58 when he chased Mitchell Johnson, and the end came quickly for Sri Lanka. The final wicket arrived when Chanaka Welegedara was taken at third slip by Trent Copeland off the bowling of Johnson, and Sri Lanka's 174 was their fifth-lowest total batting first in a Test at home.

As if to rub it in, Watson and Hughes then cruised the final session, and Sri Lanka's one moment of hope was when Prasanna appealed for lbw against Watson. The umpire gave Watson not out and Dilshan immediately asked for a referral, which showed the ball struck Watson in the "umpire's call" zone and would have clipped the stumps with the same dubious margin. The uncertainty meant the decision was not overturned, but had the on-field umpire given Watson out, he would have stayed out.

The Sri Lankan fast men hadn't found the same swing and seam movement that Australia's bowlers did in the morning. The first hour was especially difficult for the batsmen, with both Harris and Copeland moving the ball both ways.

Some deliveries in Harris' opening spell were almost unplayable, as he angled the ball in to the right-handers and then moved it away off the seam. However, it was the left-hander Tharanga Paranavitana who was the first victim, for a 12-ball duck, when he got a thin edge behind to a ball that went on with the natural angle from over the wicket.

Copeland then produced a near perfect offcutter to get rid of Dilshan for 4. Dilshan has struggled to find the right rhythm in this series, either playing too many shots or too few, and this time it was the latter that brought his downfall when he shouldered arms to a delivery that nipped back sharply off the seam and clipped the very top of the off stump.

But the most uplifting moment for the Australians in the early stages came when Hussey, the oldest player in their team, hurled himself to his left at gully to take a brilliant one-handed catch. Jayawardene had got a thick edge off Copeland and the ball was almost past Hussey when he clutched it in his left hand, and he was quickly mobbed by his team-mates.

Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera steadied with a 43-run partnership before Samaraweera (17) was caught behind off the inside edge, the victim of another Harris delivery that nipped in off the seam. He was followed soon after by Prasanna Jayawardene, who blasted a quick 18 but fell in the first over from Lyon, when he mistimed a sweep and was caught at deep midwicket.

Prasanna was one of several batsmen who let themselves down with poor judgment, and the Sri Lankans must come out of their slump quickly if they want to keep the series alive. If the second day is anything like the first, this time on Friday it might all be too late.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on September 9, 2011, 21:58 GMT

    @ brisCricFan - agree 100%. He is a very much maligned, but with a ratio of over 4 wickets per Test @ a S/R of 53, thats World Class. Yes the radar does go off line, but he is closing in on 200 Test wickets. His ODI stats are very good too!

  • VINEET on September 9, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    @ hyclass:"applaud England for showing integrity of process,committment to results and the kind of total professionalism that forces everyone to lift their game" is the biggest joke ever...U really think Eng have those qualities...I agree the current Eng team is one of the bet in the world but they still have a long way to go & the way the fans are reacting is as though the team has achieved everything which is possible for a team to achieve

  • Steve on September 9, 2011, 6:11 GMT

    That's a fantastic shot on the home page of Shane Watson losing his off stump - props to the photographer at AP :)

  • Christopher on September 9, 2011, 4:34 GMT

    Hughes has been under pressure,every time hes batted in a Test, since the Ashes '09.Id like to see the monkey off his back.His records impressive.If both these batsmen negotiate the first hour,which in local conditions,is the hardest,they could be in for a big scores, not just because the pitch will flatten out,but because Dilshan looks like a man,fresh out of ideas. To be fair to him,the injuries to Matthews havent helped his cause.I see Prasanna as the big danger.As was shown in the ODI, Prasanna is at his most dangerous against the new batsmen.He looks like a bowler who can run through a lineup and has an extraordinary record.I would rather have seen Eranga included over Randiv.Its an attacking move and SL need to attack.They have enough good part-time finger spinners.The extra paceman may have proved better value to Dilshan and he can handle the bat.There seems to be a mentality of,' the more spinners,the better'.Id like to see that changed to,'Better bowlers equals more wickets.'

  • M on September 9, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    I am constantly amused at the calls to get rid of Johnson... An interesting stat that presented yesterday shows that he is the LEADING 4th innings wicket taker of all current bowlers. Shows he is a finisher. Some people say he only took the last wickets but forget that Siddle and Hussey put on almost 150 for the last wicket not so long ago... a wicket is a wicket. On top of that, Mitch is one of the fastest Aus bowlers in history to reach the milestones of 50, 100, 150 wickets and will soon do so again for 200 wickets... his record to100 was exactly that of McGrath, oh and some guy by the name of Warne...

  • Christopher on September 9, 2011, 3:52 GMT

    @Ronsars...England thrashed Australia in Australia late last year and early this year.Im guessing that wasnt a home win.The demolition job they did,was the same as the one they did on India.Different conditions,same result. It may have escaped your notice,,but England isnt responsible for the ICC rankings-only for accruing the points, through wins over time,that have taken it to number 1.Instead of displaying poor sportsmanship, i would expect you to applaud England for showing integrity of process,committment to results and the kind of total professionalism that forces everyone to lift their game. In the end,isnt that the whole point to being the best?

  • rahul on September 9, 2011, 3:38 GMT


  • VINEET on September 9, 2011, 2:41 GMT

    Just a series win over injured India and poms are acting as though they are the world champs...If India or any other subcontinent country wins a series @ home they are labelled as home-ground advantage & team which can only win @ home but if poms win the same its labelled as achievement!!!! Well done Aus a complete team effort!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Andrew on September 9, 2011, 2:31 GMT

    @Aussies_No.1_4Eva - no need to bag SL players as C-Grade. They have 3 batsmen (Sanga, Mahela & Samaweera) in modern terms who are outstanding & a good journeyman in Dilshan, & a very talented up & comer in Matthews, (possibly the Watto of SL cricket). Their w/k batsmen Jayawerdene (although playing a dumb shot against Lyon), is very good at keeping & sound as a batsmen. Their bowling is however, looking dusty. Their best bowler, (on averages) is Dilshan a part timer. SL in SL are USUALLY very competitive, still a good DAY 2 for SL & they are back in business.

  • Dummy4 on September 9, 2011, 2:02 GMT


  • No featured comments at the moment.