Chaminda Vaas, who took 5 for 31 on the opening day of the first Test at the Marrara Oval, has said that Sri Lanka were confident of bowling Australia out, even without Muttiah Muralitharan.
"We missed our champion bowler but we all planned that without him we can knock the Australians over," said Vaas. "If we can put the ball in the right spot and make the batsmen play all the time, the bowlers can do wonders on this pitch. Nuwan [Zoysa] and [Lasith] Malinga bowled well, and Thilan [Samaraweera] and Sanath [Jayasuriya] gave us good support. Although we bowled well from the start, the pitch settled down and provided some bounce only after the lunch break. For the first hour, although the ball was seaming, the pitch was a bit slow. We didn't do much but kept the ball on a line and length and forced them to play all the time."
Vaas also explained that the reason why Sri Lanka opted to field was because of the slowness of the pitch and the moisture present on it. "We went on the basis that it was similar to the pitch we played in the four-day game here."
Vaas praised the bowling of Lasith Malinga, 20, who took 2 for 50 on his Test debut and surprised a few batsmen with his pace and movement with the old ball after tea. "He bowled brilliantly to take two wickets on his debut on this slow pitch," said Vaas. "He has just started and he has a long way to go. If he keeps on bowling like this he will have a good future."
Meanwhile Darren Lehmann, who top-scored in Australia's innings with 57, was full of praise for Vaas's bowling effort. "He bowled beautifully and swung it for most of the day. It does swing up here for some reason," he said. "It's hard to get him away because the wicket is slow and the outfield is slow as well. It was hard to pierce the gaps and get any rhythm out there, but he contained us very well. He bowled 19 overs that were really tight."
Lehmann also said that the Marrara Oval pitch was not ideal for strokeplay. "You've just got to cope with that and get on with it," he said. "The outfield is quite slow. If you get 200 it is probably worth 250-260. You can't get flat wickets all the time. But this pitch gives the batters more of a challenge to get a decent score - which we probably didn't get.
"We would like to have batted throughout the day and get a decent score. But Sri Lanka bowled well. We should give some credit for them there. We put ourselves down a little bit after three or four blokes got set and didn't really get on with it."
Lehmann took time to comment on Malinga, whose slingy action was likened to that of Jeff Thomson, the former Australian fast bowler. "He is different. It is hard to pick him up early," he said. "But once you are used to him it's OK. He is so small and he is a real slinger. We haven't come across someone like that before. He lets them go and he's got some pace.
"The hardest thing probably is just the variable bounce and adjusting to it. Some balls come through, some don't. On a normal wicket it will be a little bit easier taking him on. But it was interesting and it was good fun. He got hit around early, but he fought back pretty well with a couple of wickets with a bit of pace."
Lehmann hoped that the Australian bowlers would continue the good work and keep the Sri Lankan total down. "The quicks bowled beautifully tonight so hopefully we can follow that tomorrow morning and put the pressure on them with a couple of early wickets. The advantage for us is that the pitch is up and down. With our quality of bowlers it gives us a little bit of an advantage. It will be interesting to see how it plays tomorrow."