Australia in Sri Lanka 2011

Australia seek reward for effort

Daniel Brettig in Colombo

September 13, 2011

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson celebrates the dismissal of Thilan Samaraweera, Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele, 5th day, September 12, 2011
Watson: "Given how well we've played over the last two Tests we'll be letting ourselves down if we give them [Sri Lanka] a chance to get back into the series" © AFP
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Australia's meticulous planning and organised performance against a Sri Lankan team that has floundered rather more than it has flourished will count for very little should the hosts gather themselves and win the final Test in Colombo. For all the progress that appears to have been made under the captaincy of Michael Clarke, there will be nothing to show for it in terms of the series or the ICC rankings if the Australians slip up at the SSC.

Shane Watson, the vice-captain, was extremely wary of this fact as he looked back upon the second Test in Pallekele, which the tourists dominated to an even greater extent than they had in Galle, only for rain and bad light to scupper any chance of the victory that would have secured a 2-0 series lead. Having worked so assiduously towards the goal of success in Sri Lanka, the thought of going home with a 1-1 scoreline from the Tests drew a pained look on Watson's face.

"That's the most disappointing thing about this Test," Watson said. "We played really well throughout the whole Test and didn't get the result to be able to win the series. We're really going to have to be on, because if we're not on in the last Test we could draw the series.

"Given how well we've played over the last two Tests we'll be letting ourselves down if we don't play as well as we know we can and give them a chance to get back into the series."

Critical to the fortunes of both teams will be the matter of physical recovery, for despite all the rain breaks, and numerous innings of brief duration, team physios and the medical staff have been stretched to the edges of their capability by the scheduling of three back-to-back Tests. Watson, well-attuned to the need for rigorous personal training and maintenance after an injury-riddled start to his career, emphasised the need for a light few days.

"The most important thing is to recover as well as we can," Watson said. "We need to go into the third Test as fresh as we possibly can so these next three days are going to be so important to make sure we are ready to go and play well again.

"[For me] it means not doing too much at all apart from a little bit of batting to be able to get that going well, but bowling-wise I won't be doing too much because I bowled a bit through this game. I know exactly what works for me and that is freshening up as much as I can to give myself every chance to be in a good place going into the last Test, because three Test matches in three weeks is hard work and you need every chance of energy you can."

Within the Australian XI, the most critical questions of fitness will surround the pace spearhead Ryan Harris, due to have a stiff right hamstring assessed on his arrival in Colombo on Tuesday afternoon, plus the inexperienced duo of Nathan Lyon and Trent Copeland.

"That [injury] has always been part of his history unfortunately," Watson said. "We've seen how well he's bowled in the last two Tests. When he's fit and going he's definitely one of our first picked bowlers because he charges in all day and bowls well with the new and old ball. But that is always the question, playing three Tests back to back with his history. We'll see how he pulls up."

Lyon and Copeland have so far responded stoutly to the physical and technical challenges presented to them, but may yet face their most pressing questions on a Colombo pitch that will more than likely sit heavily in the favour of the local batsmen.

"That's always a big challenge, getting used to playing three games back to back, technically, mentally and physically so it's going to be a good test for them," Watson said. "That's the thing with Test cricket, it is a big test but they are holding up alright and Copeland is used to bowling a lot of overs in the forms he plays for New South Wales. Lyono will be ready to go, he is obviously still very excited about being able to play Test cricket so hopefully there won't be too much rain in Colombo and the wicket will break up more and bring him into that game."

Watson is not on the tour selection panel that now comprises Clarke and coach Tim Nielsen, but he favoured minimal changes to the team that had done everything within its power to secure the series in the first two matches. To keep a stable team, Watson reckoned, would be to help build the confidence and culture of a team that had taken plenty of hits in the preceding 12 months.

"My opinion is I would prefer to keep with a group that's doing really well," Watson said. "There's no doubt that's when you are able to continue to build as a team and the individuals within the team as well, the more continuity you get I think the better for everyone.

"On the fresh legs side of things I am not sure what will happen, I know what we have been able to do as a group bowling-wise has been very impressive. I think what we are building has been very exciting."

In Pallekele that building included Shaun Marsh, who now must wait to discover if he can keep his spot when Ricky Ponting returns.

"It's a great thing, something we haven't had too much over the last year or so really, pressure for spots even within our team," Watson said. "So that's a great selection drama to have within our team, because it means some guys are performing very well. There's no doubt Shaun being able to come in and bat No. 3 on debut and make the most of the opportunity is very impressive, to see the way he batted in his first Test, so it's definitely going to make selection very difficult."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by cccrider on (September 15, 2011, 9:10 GMT)

Hughes is plain awful. Terrible technique, bad attitude, doesn't learn. Get him out of the team.

Posted by anver777 on (September 15, 2011, 5:56 GMT)

Khawaja will certainly miss out 3rd test bc of Ponting's arrival & Marsh's strong debut innings..... I feel sorry for talented Khawaja !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by hyclass on (September 15, 2011, 2:15 GMT)

SL batting is struggling under pressure,brought about by the absence of a Test standard bowling attack.In the last Test in England,it made 400 in the 1st innings and 82 in the 2nd,while England made 5 for496.The middle order has 3 batsmen averaging 50+,so talent and concentration are not the issues.Talented bowlers like Mendis and Herath,are backed up by well credentialled up and coming spinners like Prasanna and Senanayake.Its in the pace bowling department that the whole package falls apart.With the new ball making few inroads on flat tracks,the spinners are having to bowl far too early,to set batsmen.In England,that meant huge totals.For spinners to succeed,it helps to have something in their favour-either new batsmen or a worn or turning wicket.SL 1st class pacemen take 3 or less wickets a game,despite their high S/R.It implies short,new ball spells only.Vaas is the only complete pace bowler,SL have produced.Its time they looked at why,if they are to be serious Test contenders.

Posted by hyclass on (September 14, 2011, 11:34 GMT)

@Marcio.I cant speak for anyone else,but im not too thrilled about being called a Pom.Melbourne,Australia born and bred-bowled to Darren Lehmann at Bat and Ball in Dudley St,West Melbourne,when he played for Victoria-played SL Oldboys for St Josephs with my Lankan Sth Melbourne district 1sts mates.As@landl47 has alluded to,its commendable to make plans,but the opposition have plans and if theyre of high enough quality,well-the best laid plans of mice and men and all that.England are NO.1 because the ICC says so.Its not an opinion.The measure of progress would be whether this team would perform any better than they did earlier this year against England.I highly doubt it.Australia had plans then as well.As far as Im concerned,Marsh,Lyon and Pattinson,dont yet belong in this side,based on their records.The 1st Test pitch was an ICC sanctioned farce and lottery.Herath & Lyon had a field day.The SL attack for the 2nd Test was,by current records,the weakest in the world,on a flat pitch.

Posted by Meety on (September 14, 2011, 8:07 GMT)

Onya Marcio! Its funny how the 4nil win against India is considered great cricket by England - not poor Indian cricket hey!!!!

Posted by Marcio on (September 14, 2011, 7:33 GMT)

Hyclass, barmyarmy and landL47 obviously haven't watched any of the series. This has been an intelligent, organised, determined and committed Australian effort from a well-balanced team. They deserve plenty of praise. Why is it that you Poms find it so difficult to acknowledge good play from anyone but England? We saw the same when England got thrashed 6-1 in the one day series in Australia. The Pom comments all but dried up, except for the odd "Nobody cares about this series in England", LOL. It's not hard to see you want to maintain the delusion that the Australian team is standing still rather than improving quickly. That prospect is a little too much for you guys to get your heads around, isn't it? @Front foot lunge even tried to convince himself that AUS are 5 years behind Eng! Dream on guys. 2 years, more like it, and only in tests, not in 1 dayers where AUS is now infinitely better.

Posted by Samdanh on (September 14, 2011, 7:10 GMT)

@Aditya S Mainkar:if a Test match gets over in less than or equal to two days, that can happen only in a minefiled-which it was in Mumbai 2004. Had it happened in current era when there is pitch monitoring and venue monitoring committee under ICC, Mumbai could have faced sanctions and lost opportunity to host matches until it proved it can prepare sporting pitches. It was a show of desperation by India after it lost two matches out of three in the four match series. The moment Clarke was brought on he picked 6 for nine!. Even novices among cricket followers will not deny that it was perhaps one of the most dreadful pitches Test cricket was ever played on! I am an Indian cricket fan. But that 2004 event was stooping too low to conquer.

Posted by Black_Rider on (September 14, 2011, 6:51 GMT)

That picture where Watson holding a little girl in the national hospital was awesome..Thanks Aussies for coming there.Thank you very Much for visiting Sri Lanka....

Posted by hris on (September 14, 2011, 5:44 GMT)

@landl47 maybe the quality of opp made a difference but to use that to deny any credit to to oz is absurd. I could use the same argument against this england team by saying they arnt playing against the oz team of 2006 when anderson, cook co. got hammered.

Posted by dsig3 on (September 14, 2011, 4:17 GMT)

@thebarmyarmy great point mate. Very similar to Eng/India series.

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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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