Series review

Australia v Sri Lanka 2007-08

Mike Coward

Test matches (2): Australia 2, Sri Lanka 0


Brett Lee stood tall for Australia © Getty Images
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A cursory glance at the statistics is sufficient to establish the extent of the gulf between two teams celebrating 25 years of Test-match contact and the 20th anniversary of Sri Lanka's first Test Down Under. Three of Australia's batsmen averaged over 100, and all of Sri Lanka's principal bowlers averaged 100 or more. Indeed, not until the penultimate day of the series - if two Tests can be so called - was there any sense of a contest. And that was ended soon enough, first by Brett Lee, the admirable spearhead of the Australian attack, and then by umpire Rudi Koertzen, who made a wrong decision against the philosophical Kumar Sangakkara.

Making only their second visit to Australia for Tests in 12 years, Sri Lanka were very poor, and may have spoiled their chances of future three-Test series, and of playing at the major venues. In 2004 they were miffed at being asked to play in the winter at Darwin and Cairns, and (without Muttiah Muralitharan) lost 1-0. By winning so emphatically this time the Australians increased their number of consecutive Test victories to 14 - just two shy of the record, established under Steve Waugh between 1999 and 2001.

Proceedings were so one-sided that peripheral matters assumed greater significance, and received bolder headlines. Marvan Atapattu caused some consternation by publicly condemning the selection process in Sri Lanka, and referring to the selectors as "muppets headed by a joker". His ongoing stoush with Ashantha de Mel, the chairman of selectors, was well publicised, and Atapattu retired from international cricket at the end of the series. Significantly, his inflammatory remarks scarcely raised an eyebrow within the Sri Lankan dressing-room, and he retained the whole-hearted support of captain Mahela Jayawardene and new coach Trevor Bayliss.

Muppet madness had barely subsided when Cricket Australia officials feared that a spat between Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan would tarnish the launch of an impressive perpetual trophy named in their honour for Tests between Australia and Sri Lanka. There had been some robust exchanges between the game's two most successful bowlers in the newspapers, but on the day the trophy was unveiled their differences were dismissed as misunderstanding and miscommunication. All was sweetness and light before the cameras, and it seemed that personal differences were put aside in the name of fraternal pride and solidarity. For all their celebrity both men were humbled by the honour, and spoke proudly of advancing the cause of spin bowling. The trophy features a cast of their bowling hands in silver, gripping cricket balls.

The Sri Lankans were out of kilter from the start. After the loss of Sangakkara to a hamstring injury in a warm-up match, the decision to leave out Lasith Malinga at Brisbane and then ask the Australians to bat was bewildering. The Sri Lankans have grown so dependent on Muralitharan that there is little if any fallback position if he is not on song. And for all his wiles and success he has a modest record against Australia: Ricky Ponting declared that he was determined to ensure that Murali did not take the nine wickets he required to supplant Warne as the most successful bowler in the annals of Test cricket while in Australia. Ponting succeeded: Muralitharan's four wickets cost exactly 100 runs apiece.

Given that the Australians had not played a Test for 44 weeks, much of the pre-season speculation focused on how Ponting would manage without Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer. That neither the team nor the community they represent were traumatised spoke volumes for the stability of Australian cricket. While the Australian board and its rights-holders were criticised for not capitalising on the success of the 2006-07 Ashes series and promoting this one more vigorously and imaginatively, the crowds, as modest as they were, fell only just short of projections. Jayawardene continued to dream of one day playing Test cricket at Melbourne or Sydney, while the Australians quietly changed the guard with ceremonial precision.

Match reports for

Tour match: Cricket Australia Chairman's XI v Sri Lankans at Adelaide, Oct 27-29, 2007
Scorecard

Tour Match: Queensland v Sri Lankans at Brisbane, Nov 2-4, 2007
Scorecard

1st Test: Australia v Sri Lanka at Brisbane, Nov 8-12, 2007
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: Australia v Sri Lanka at Hobart, Nov 16-20, 2007
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Prime Minister's XI v Sri Lankans at Canberra, Jan 30, 2008
Scorecard

Tour Match: Tasmania v Sri Lankans at Hobart, Feb 2, 2008
Scorecard

2nd Match: India v Sri Lanka at Brisbane, Feb 5, 2008
Scorecard

3rd Match: Australia v Sri Lanka at Sydney, Feb 8, 2008
Scorecard

5th Match: India v Sri Lanka at Canberra, Feb 12, 2008
Scorecard

6th Match: Australia v Sri Lanka at Perth, Feb 15, 2008
Scorecard

8th Match: India v Sri Lanka at Adelaide, Feb 19, 2008
Scorecard

9th Match: Australia v Sri Lanka at Melbourne, Feb 22, 2008
Scorecard

11th Match: India v Sri Lanka at Hobart, Feb 26, 2008
Scorecard

12th Match: Australia v Sri Lanka at Melbourne, Feb 29, 2008
Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co.
 
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