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September 8, 2011
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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