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

Clarke's a thinking captain, says Hussey

Daniel Brettig in Pallekele

September 8, 2011

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Michael Hussey is congratulated after he dismissed Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 1st day, September 8, 2011
Michael Hussey on why his captain handed him the ball: "It wasn't just about 'let's just give anyone a go', it was about trying to bowl a little slower." © AFP
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No one in Pallekele was more surprised to see Michael Hussey handed the ball than the man himself.

On a hunch from Australia's captain Michael Clarke, Hussey was brought on to disrupt a budding partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, and in three balls' time he had enticed Sangakkara to push a catch to short extra cover. Job done, Hussey sauntered back to his position at gully, where he had earlier held a blinding catch to remove Mahela Jayawardene.

Hussey returned neat figures of 1-1-0-1 and joked at the end of the day that he was more than happy to bowl only the one over because he "was starting to stiffen up already". According to him, there was method to Clarke's madness.

"I couldn't believe Michael Clarke was going to give me a bowl," Hussey said. "He did sort of say he wouldn't mind giving me a couple of overs, because with a little less pace they [Sri Lanka] might chip one out to cover and, obviously, he was spot on. It wasn't just about 'let's just give anyone a go', it was about trying to bowl a little slower. The pitch was slow and it was a bit hard to drive. He's certainly a thinking captain and yeah, he had the golden hand today.

"It was a very valuable wicket for the team. I'll take it any day of the week because he's [Sangakkara] one of the best players in the world and they had a pretty good partnership going. To be able to break that and give the guys a chance with the ball reversing a little was very fortuitous I think."

Hussey's contribution summed up a day when Australia's skill and instinct was matched only by Sri Lanka's underachievement. Under such circumstances it is little wonder that the visitors are well and truly on the way towards a first series victory anywhere since defeating New Zealand early in 2010.

As for the catch, Hussey rated it one of his most significant snares, removing the batsman who had held up Australia's push for victory in Galle with a masterly 105. "It's pretty special. Definitely, was a great reaction from the team.

"It's always great to hang on to a spectacular catch but, more importantly, it was the wicket of Jayawardene who was a big thorn in our side down in Galle. I guess I was pretty lucky today in that the two wickets that were probably the key were in my hands."

Australia's domination of Sri Lanka's batsmen has been almost total. Ryan Harris and Trent Copeland were precision personified with the new ball, while Nathan Lyon again bowled with courage and variety to the middle order. The bowlers, Hussey said, deserved a lot of credit for his side's success.

"I think it's a real testament to the way the bowlers have gone about their work," he said. "They've been very patient. The surface out there is good. Despite it being a bit slow, making it hard to get the timing right, it's only as good as the bowlers bowl. If they bowl with width or err in length, you'll be able to score quite quickly out there. But our bowlers were very disciplined for long periods of time.

"They're very clear in their minds about what they're trying to do and we've proven we can do it now for the first one and a half Test matches. But we've got to maintain that standard over longer periods of time if are to get back to where we want to be in the standings."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by barto123 on (September 9, 2011, 9:07 GMT)

@mak102480 India have only won the last test series against australia, not the last two, at home. they lost last time they visited australia. And going from their away form, they wont win next itme either. Australia would have performed better than india did in england. India cant win against the big sides away from home, the best they have done is draw series (against SA) and even then its not by playing good cricket.

Posted by mak102480 on (September 9, 2011, 5:50 GMT)

@RandyOZ: India has won the last two test series against aussies...and england beat both of them equally handily (i dont think india would have lost like aussies did to england at HOME). Either way, the next 2-3 yrs will tell us which really are the top 3 test playing nations.........................@Hammond: It's all about the TALENT in the team...the same captain you call inept and uninspiring was beating the world when he had the likes of gilly, warne, mcgrath, langer, martyn, hayden in the team. Now, the team does not even have the 2nd tier bowling stars like Lee or Gillespie.

Posted by Lord.emsworth on (September 9, 2011, 4:10 GMT)

Gosh! Thanks Mr. Hussy... I didnt know there were non-thinking captains. Dilshan must be having a vacuum in his head from ear to ear....Poor fella..

Posted by bobagorof on (September 9, 2011, 3:47 GMT)

@mak102480: I agree with you that 1 1/2 Tests (plus the one in Sydney, so that's 2 1/2 really) is not enough to anoint someone as the best captain in the world. However, Clarke has shown much better handling of his bowling attack so far than his predecessor did. Sri Lanka don't have any pace bowlers of note, true, but Australia's attack accounted for a batting lineup that includes three players who average over 50 (in 60, 99 and 120 matches) and another who has been averaging around 50 since 2007. To dismiss them for 174 on a batting pitch is a pretty good effort. There have been some pretty good changes of bowling involved, too - bringing on Hussey and Lyon and having immediate success - unlike Ponting, who kept going to Johnson as Plan A, B and C. So if Australia's bowling attack is really 'mediocre', as you say, then it just makes Clarke's captaincy seem all the more impressive. They may yet struggle against better sides, but right now the signs are encouraging.

Posted by Hammond on (September 9, 2011, 3:10 GMT)

@mak102480 I don't understand your attitude. Australia has been struggling for years now with a tactically inept and uninspiring captain. The actual teams as individuals have been very good and very talented, but the leadership has been bad. I quote General Luddendorf in the first world war "The British fight like lions but are led by donkeys"- and so we have been since Ponting's disastrous appointment as Australian captian. The current Aussie team may be young, unexperienced and middle of the road. But by Gad give an Aussie team a great captain and they will take the whole world on. I'd say within 18 months you will see Australia beating teams from the sub-continent regularly and then taking on and beating SA & England.

Posted by   on (September 9, 2011, 2:46 GMT)

Remember Doug Walters being used the same way

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 9, 2011, 2:02 GMT)

@mak102480, I would assume you are joking when you say India is still better than Aus, because no other conclusion can be garnered from that comment. For those Punter captaincy bashers, the fact is he led with his performance, and his incredible battnig was second to none. Fact is Clarke has done well so far but still hasn't performed consistently with the bat. His Ashes series with the bat was bordering on McGrath like. He HAS to earn his spot in the side on BATTING PERFORMACE, not captaincy work.

Posted by Meety on (September 9, 2011, 1:50 GMT)

@victortrumpet - & Punter lives in Sydney! LOL! @dsig3 - dunno why it was such a big deal giving Hussey a bowl, he could be considered an allrounder now as he averages 51 with the bat & only 35 with the ball!!!! LOL!

Posted by IPLisdull on (September 9, 2011, 0:41 GMT)

well done guys, liking the variety in the australian attack at the moment (granted it is early days) but they look much stronger with a line bowler (copeland), a bang it in bowler who can move it (harris), an attacking left armer (johnson) and a spinner who can believe it or not flight the ball!(lyon). Add a little bit of reverse ability with Watson and it looks to have a lot more depth than the bang it into the track sameness of the bowlers who were plundered around australia by cook, trott and co.

Posted by dsig3 on (September 8, 2011, 23:38 GMT)

Its quite unbelievable. When he first came on to bowl it was a complete shock. I though someone was injured because SL were in a bad position and we had plenty of bowlers. In a perfect world Hussey should have no business rolling his arm over but it just worked. One of those things. Sanga will be reminded of this every time he plays Aus from now on. How can you give you wicket to Hussey?

Posted by Meety on (September 8, 2011, 23:28 GMT)

@jonesy2 - here here!!!!

Posted by HatsforBats on (September 8, 2011, 23:01 GMT)

@landl47: on the captaincy note, Clarke has had a close relationship with Warne for a long time and obviously the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree (in that he is proactive in his captaincy, nothing to do with his phone habits). As for Ponting, there are as many types of captains as there are players. He was no tactical genius but he lead with the bat and set the standard for his team, in that respect he was a brilliant captain. If Clarke can get his batting to what it was 2yrs ago then he could be something special.

Posted by Buggsy on (September 8, 2011, 21:46 GMT)

I'm liking what I see with Clarke so far but he needs support from the other selectors. As long as they give him a consistent team and stop filling it with under performing bowlers who can't bowl to plans (read: Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus), he could do wonders for Australia. But still, it's early days yet and the tour of South Africa and hosting India at home will really test his mettle.

Posted by mak102480 on (September 8, 2011, 21:18 GMT)

what a load of rubbish...not even two tests yet and clarke is annointed as "the best on field captain in the world". If you think India do not have any quality fast bowlers (minus zaheer), sri lanka is even in a worse predicament. This Aussie bowling line up is nothing short of mediocre either. We will see how they do against tougher badly as india got beat by england, they are still a better team than this aussie team. And of course England and SA as well.

Posted by victortrumpet on (September 8, 2011, 21:13 GMT)

Well think about it folks...what do Border, Taylor, Waugh, and now Clarke have in common?

A: They all come from new South Wales...

Posted by landl47 on (September 8, 2011, 18:07 GMT)

Although one and a half tests isn't enough to make a judgement, Clarke certainly seems a much better captain than the indecisive and unimaginative Ponting. It's been obvious for a long time that Ponting wasn't a good captain, just a captain who inherited a good team. Clarke is going to have lots of stiffer tests than Sri Lanka have given him so far, but he's looked the business up to this point.

Posted by dravidgood on (September 8, 2011, 17:32 GMT)

Mr Cricket as ever!! with a hint of a clause in self-deprecation. Take a bow Huss...

Posted by   on (September 8, 2011, 17:32 GMT)

Australia with an average team but with strategic application and focus is doing wonders.Sheer focus and concentration of Aussies has left Srilanka in awe.

Posted by   on (September 8, 2011, 16:53 GMT)

Well done assuies...Way to go... Australia or England will top the rankings for the next 5 years..

Posted by kriskingle on (September 8, 2011, 15:39 GMT)

Well, for all their uncertainty and indecision over the right spinner to replace Warne, CA have definitely made the best possible choice in grooming and picking the right candidate for their captaincy. If they cannot pick a great team, they have atleast made sure tat they will not lose due to the captain's lack of leadership skills and tactical nous. Any team that wants to win against Australia have to ensure that they win the game, not get it on a platter from their captain. Not that MC is a personal favourite, of course. His personal integrity has always been under question since Syndney '08. But there's no doubt he is prime captaincy material, and at the righr time too, for emerging Australia.

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 8, 2011, 14:55 GMT)

clarke's the best on field captain in the world without a doubt and has shown it with his ODI captaincy for a few years now and in this test series. brilliant work pup, critics must be feeling like idiots now. as usual australia as a team and individually show everyone whos boss.

Posted by   on (September 8, 2011, 14:46 GMT)

Brilliant stuff from Micheal Clarke..............!!!!!!

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (September 8, 2011, 14:32 GMT)

Looks to me like Sri Lanka wants to help Australia become a good Cricket nation again. Sri Lanka seems to have no motivation to play well against Australia.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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