Friday, 14 December 2012

The Australian art of deception

Sri Lanka vs Australia - 1st Test - Hobart - December 14th
Day 1 - Stumps - Australia 299/4 (90)

Australians haven't been known for their deceptive skills, over the years. They've always had more of a warrior-at-your-throat kind of approach than a tricky ambush sort of one. In the recent history, their players like McGrath wasn't known for a well hidden slower ball. Although Shane Warne hyped the press every summer with a "New Variation", there was never a sort of "mystery ball" that the batsmen couldn't pick. Ponting and Gilchrist never had a shot named after them. They were good solid cricketers, who knew what they were doing, and since they did it so well, didn't have anything to hide from the opposition.

This time around though, the Hobart curator has decided to mess with the heads a bit. A relayed pitch at the Belleriev meant that it had no green monsters on it, as the numerous articles had suggested in the build up, some even calling it "The Hulk". Flat as a Roti, it was, the pitch. Kulasekara might even have been tempted to get some Lunu-Miris and have a bite off it, specially after that dropped chance by Mathews in the first over the day. If it stays the same for 2 more days though, the Sri Lankans won't be complaining , Sangakkara and co will be licking their lips to dig their teeth in to this one. This is given that at the end of the next 2 days, Australia wont still be batting, at this rate, somewhere around 800/9.

On a pitch like that Sri Lanka will take the Aussie run rate of 3.2 any day, specially given the caliber of their bowling attack. This isn't half the quality of that of which Australia threaded to bits and pieces in Adelaide against South Africa. Yet, take nothing away from Hughes, Warner and Clarke. They played as well as they can play, frustrated the bowlers by playing and missing, but not edging it. I wonder if it's a little mind game, playing and missing deliberately, inviting the bowler to go fuller and wider, and crunching a cover drive to the fence. I've heard that the famous Ceylonese captain, F.C De Seram, of the early 1950s used to do it, back in the day. Sounds like a complete gamble only the bravest and the cleverest could pull off! Australia though, probably were just good. Simple and unrattled.

Phil Hughes played the kind of "frustrating-fresher" innings,
that Dimuth Karunaratne might want to replicate.
But, Sri Lanka will be happy. They didn't let Australia maul them over, like they did in their last tour back in 2007. Having sent back the top four for less than 200 on the board, they now have a chance of bowling out Australia for the first time since Cairns, 2004. And Rangana Herath hasn't even bowled a proper spell yet! Even Hussey and Clarke were tied down for the most part of their 100-run partnership, and even towards the end, neither looked rock solid at the crease, Eranga getting . With the new ball in hand, the Sri Lankan quicks, or should I say "the 1-half-quick-and-2-dibbly-dobblies", would back them selves to restrict Australia to under 800. Well, realistically to about under 500, but under 500 DOES technically mean its under 800, so we should be good either way.

At the end of the day, Sri Lanka haven't looked like they can beat Australia, as expected. But Australia haven't looked like they can beat Sri Lanka yet either, unlike the last time these teams met in this part of the world. And on that note, Mahela Jayawardane will be grinning in his sleep tonight.

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