Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 2nd day September 9, 2011

Marsh and Hussey power Australia


Australia 264 for 3 (Marsh 87*, Hussey 76*) lead Sri Lanka 174 by 90 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Shaun Marsh grew up dreaming of wearing a baggy green just like his father Geoff, and realised that ambition on Thursday. By Friday night he was able to go to bed dreaming of a long future in Test cricket and a potential century on debut, after he and Michael Hussey drove Australia into a powerful position at stumps on the second day in Pallekele.

Marsh was unbeaten on 87 and Hussey was on 76 when bad light stopped play shortly after tea, and although both men were within sight of triple figures, the most important figure was the 90-run lead they had built for their team. With seven wickets in hand and three days still to play, it would take something miraculous for the Sri Lankans to get out of this hole.

At least they know they have what it takes to trouble Australia; three top-order wickets before lunch proved that. But once Hussey and Marsh came together, two calm left-handers at opposite ends of their careers, all the momentum was sucked away from Sri Lanka.

When Australia were 116 for 3 following the loss of Michael Clarke, a first-innings lead was still up for grabs. At the close of play, Australia were 264 for 3, and the only question was how many Sri Lanka would have to make to force the visitors to bat a second time.

As the partnership grew, things became so desperate for Tillakaratne Dilshan that he even turned to Kumar Sangakkara, desperately hoping his arm would prove as golden as Hussey's had for Australia on the first day. But Sangakkara's sub-100kph seamers made Hussey the bowler look like Brett Lee, and the Australians had no problem seeing him off.

Sangakkara even took the new ball during his second over, an extraordinary move for a man whose only first-class victim was Elton Chigumbura in a match against Zimbabwe A seven years ago. It was a sign of how helpless Marsh and Hussey had made the Sri Lankans feel.

That's to be expected of Hussey, but the composure shown by Marsh was remarkable. If he reaches his hundred, he'll be the first Australian to score a century on debut since another patient Western Australian left-hander, Marcus North, who achieved the feat in South Africa in 2009.

But North was shielded down at No.6; Marsh was sent in at No.3, and saw wickets tumble around him early in his innings. Initially, he found his runs largely through singles, taking no risks, and even when the boundaries began to flow they were usually dispatched safely along the ground.

He brought up his half-century with a classy off-drive for four off the legspin of Seekkuge Prasanna, using his feet to reach the pitch of the ball and directing it wide of mid-off. He put away three boundaries in that over, but all were safe strokes.

Meanwhile, Hussey was punching through gaps, cutting late and finding runs with his usual ease. His only lean patch came when he spent 39 balls working his way through the 40s, before his half-century came up with a vicious pull for four off Suraj Randiv.

Hussey had survived a tight run-out chance on 39 when he dived full-stretch to make his ground after sprinting through for a quick single to mid-off. It was another incredible display of athleticism for a 36-year-old, but was hardly surprising after his flying catch at gully on the first day.

The direct hit from Lakmal would have found most batsmen around the world short of their ground, and it just added to the frustration for Sri Lanka after their first session had gone so well. The day started with a wicket before Australia had scored a run, as Shane Watson shouldered arms to Lakmal and lost his off stump.

It was a terribly poor piece of judgment: the ball was too full and too straight, and Watson should have learnt from the previous delivery, which had narrowly missed off stump when he also chose to leave it alone. By contrast, Clarke probably should have stayed away from the ball that got him for 13; he followed the angle from the left-armer Chanaka Welegedara and loosely edged to slip.

The other wicket to fall in that brief period of Sri Lankan dominance was Phillip Hughes, who worked hard for his 36 before he was caught at short-leg, having inside-edged onto his pad against the offspin of Randiv. It wasn't a failure of an innings for Hughes, but nor was it a triumph like Marsh's effort.

At stumps, Usman Khawaja was padded up ready to come in next, which created an interesting subplot for Australian fans: when Ricky Ponting returns for the third Test, Marsh, Hughes and Khawaja will be battling for two spots.

By then, the series could be decided. And Marsh might have been the man to decide it.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on September 10, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    @popcorn..Flashy? Hughes?..He has 152 runs from 364 balls in SL at 38 with a S/R of 41.... Mark Taylor 89/90-to 98/99,9 years,5 times in a series averaged in the 30s....10 times averaged 25 or under....Micheal Slater-from 94/95 to retirement 6 years later,twice averaged below 35 and 8 times below 30.....Katich was dropped previously and told he would never make it back.... Marsh and Khawaja have vastly inferior records to Hughes in first class cricket.Marsh still only has 3 1st class hundreds since Nov.2007 Khawaja currently hasnt even made a test 50,let alone 2 hundreds.Before Hayden came good,he had made 536 runs at 24 in a period between 93/94 and 00/01,-7 years in which he was dropped several times... His last 3 series in 08/09 made 383 runs at 23. Before Langer came good,he made 272 runs at 22 between 92/93 and 98/99,6 years in which he was dropped several times.Hughes has had NO SUPPORT from CA.He was first dropped in 09 after he was given out to a ball that BOUNCED,for 17.

  • Christopher on September 10, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    Super blog@Wozza-CY.When performance is the selection criterion,everyone is pushing each other for the best possible results and it drives standards higher.That hasnt been the case for 4 years,where 1st class records have been ignored.One blogger described it as,'Throwing as many non-performing players as possible at the team and hoping one would stick'. Shaun Marsh will go into the record books and can be duly proud of his accomplishment,but your point on him following it up is well made.He has 2 first class centuries,since Nov.2007.Todays 100 makes it 3.All have been on flat tracks against modest attacks.@Meety and @Wozza-CY...Whenever Hughes has joined the Test side,since Ashes 09,his whole approach changes.It cant be coincidence.Who is behind it?A month ago,he was smashing SA-A and Zimbabwe for run-a-ball hundreds and he had 400 runs in his last 2 Shield games.Since arriving in SL,he has scored at a crawl.His 13 runs from 62 balls on the second morning was suicide.Im a Hughes fan.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Thought for the day: Tie the use of DRS to over rates. Each team should have their number of DRS reviews per innings linked to their over rate performance over their last ten bowling innings. That is, if they can bowl at 90 overs per 6 hours ten times out of ten, then they should get 5 reviews per innings. 8 times out of ten will see that taken to 4 reviews. Slowly reducing it to Zero reviews. This will automatically improve over rates and give teams more opportunities to review clos decisions. A true win/win if ever there was one.. cheers

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    @jairam amirith --- i agree

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    Test matches are doomed because of the inane decisions made with respect to stoppages for bad light. Use the lights where available, if not, start play much earlier the next day , say 45 min earlier rather than just 15 min. Very simple solutions but no one seems to use them.

  • Tim on September 10, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    I've enjoyed Michael Clarke's captaincy but his batting is still a worry. Another low score and he is in danger of another test series without a hundred. He still has time on his side but there are many people losing patience with pup.

  • Andrew on September 10, 2011, 1:34 GMT

    @popcorn/J McGahan/seagrip - Hughes should be given a run thru the 3rd Test here & at least the first 2 Tests in Sth Africa. He has got a very good FC record & has more proven reults then either Khawaja or Marsh or any other Ozzy in the Shield over the last 3 years. Hughes only played in 2 Tests in the 2009 Ashes. We lost that series because a) England played very well, b) We didn't ram home the advantages when we had it, c) Some bad luck in that Stu Clark & Lee were injured at the start of the series, d) Dropping Hauritz. None of that had anything to do with Hughes. The other thing is we are currently winning. Winning involves talent, application AND CONFIDENCE. If you mess with the confidence, ALL the Talent & Application in the world will be worth nothing. Dropping Hughes WILL destabilise the Ozzy team just when there appears to be an improving team ethic. It could be catastrophic. Do not drop Hughes for Marsh & Khawaja as openers, that = dumb. Drop him for Katich maybe.

  • Dummy4 on September 10, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    @Eli Mahendra, Dilshan did not invent that scoop shot. Ryan Campbell, the West Australian wicketkeeper who played two ODIs for Australia back in 2002 was playing that ridiculous shot long before Dilshan.

  • Supun on September 9, 2011, 22:08 GMT

    Poor batting let SL down for the third consecutive time. But SL has not chaned their batting line up..SL used to change Bowling dept, even batting line up failed.There is no value if somebody make 100+ when SL gone past 400 in an inning..But if some body can withstand when other falls it will be great. I think its time to change captancy .?(This will his 4 th consective series defeat 4 sure.ALREADY LOST 2 ODI series and 1 test series He can lead only for T20). Bring Mahela or Maththews...Its time to drop Samaraweera and Paranawithana..

  • Warrick on September 9, 2011, 21:44 GMT

    @popcorn- Khawaja hasn't really been flush with runs of late & whilst Marsh has played a nice innings, he needs to follow it up with some solid scores. He has entered the last two ODI series with great innings then fallen away. But it's this competition for places that will drive oz forward. If the team keeps winning they shouldn't change it too much, but the competition for places will be healthy. I feel Hughes deserves at least this test series and the perhaps the start of Sth.Afica to find his feet again. His record says the runs will come. I wouldn't call Watson a 'solid' opener, he plays so many shots it's hard to say whether its a stamina issue or the amount of shots he plays (eventually he gets out from them, refer 2nd innings last test) that prevents him from the triple figure scores. On a side note, how good is Hussey going...?

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