When asked what areas Australia needed to improve in order to level the Twenty20 series after their loss to Sri Lanka in Sydney, allrounder Glenn Maxwell's answer was revealing: batting, bowling and fielding. Despite the fact that Australia were in the contest until Thisara Perera struck a pair of sixes to get Sri Lanka home in the 19th over of their chase, they knew deep down that had been outplayed in all areas.
Batting first they scored a sub-par 137, of which David Warner made 90 - the highest percentage of a team's total ever scored by one player in a T20 international. They finished with seven wickets in hand, yet could not lift the tempo against Sri Lanka's outstanding bowling, managing only 36 runs from the last five overs. In the field, they missed opportunities. Their own death bowling was imprecise and too easy to score off.
"Very disappointing. We felt like we got outplayed in all three forms which is not a good thing," Maxwell said in Melbourne on Sunday as the Australians prepared for Monday night's second game. "We've got a lot of things to take out of the game and work on for Melbourne. Not a whole lot of positives came out of the night apart from Davey's innings."
That Matthew Wade and Maxwell at Nos. 6 and 7 were not required to bat, yet Australia were unable to post a winning total, was a concern. In his first match back in the national side in nearly a year, Shaun Marsh struggled for 6 from 17 balls, and Adam Voges was unbeaten on 25 from 29 at the end. Remarkably, not one of Australia's batsmen besides Warner hit a four, although the captain George Bailey did clear the boundary for one six.
In part, that was down to Sri Lanka's excellent bowling. Lasith Malinga confirmed why he is regarded by many opponents as the world's best T20 bowler and was hit for nothing worse than ones and twos all innings. Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera and Ajantha Mendis were all impressive as well. But Maxwell said the Australians had discussed after the match mixing things up more to throw the bowlers off, and if he faces Malinga in Melbourne he intends to use the depth of the crease to alter the bowler's length.
"We spoke about that we have to find a way to score, whether it be change up or take an educated risk," Maxwell said. "We had seven wickets in hand at the end. We just probably needed to take a few more risks at the end. I think we'll see some different techniques shown. There won't be the steady cricket that we probably showed last night.
"We were very good last night as far as hitting gaps and singles but that probably would have been more handy in the one-day team. In the T20 stuff we've just got to be ahead of the game, whether it be lap-shots, reverse-sweeps, backing away, charging, all those sorts of things we have to be up to date with that. We saw Dilshan's scoop last night, that put us on the back foot. That was an incredible shot. It was a calculated risk and he played it really well."
Not that the Australians built up the pressure on Sri Lanka's batsmen either. Maxwell put down a sharp chance in the third over when Kushal Perera cut hard to point and a couple of other half-chances later went begging, a run-out opportunity was missed when the ball was thrown to the wrong end, and generally there was a sloppiness not usually seen in Australian sides. Maxwell said as one of the sharper fielders in the side, he needed to lead by example.
"Myself and Dave Warner are probably the two leaders of that," he said. "We're at cover and point. We're running around a fair bit. We've got to be the energy and lifting the rest of the team as well. Me dropping the catch in the third over doesn't get us off to a good start and we've just got to lift. That's the main thing. The senior guys and the better fielders have to lift the rest of the group."
One of the most memorable pieces of fielding came from Ben Laughlin, who ran backward from point and completed a diving take to get rid of Tillakaratne Dilshan, but Laughlin might find himself dropped for the second game after a disappointing bowling effort. He leaked 46 runs from his 3.5 overs, including three sixes in his final two overs as the Sri Lankans completed the chase, and the selectors will be tempted to replace him with James Faulkner for the Melbourne match.