Sri Lanka looked poor, with miniscule contributions from their top order, Marvan Atapattu and Michael Vandort the only ones getting 50’s all game for the Sirils (Mahela Jayawardene choked on 49). Not that they don’t have a decent excuse – of course this was their big chance to unsettle the already unsettled Australians. But never mind that, perhaps it’s the name, rather than the team, that are so great? I’ve always believed that youth won the 2005 Ashes series. Far from the battle scarred English sides that couldn’t get near the Aussies for so long, these players had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and confidence was merely higher. Mitchell Johnson was good on debut, but he’s still no Glenn McGrath, not yet. Even Stuart MacGill, as great as he is, is not Shane Warne. Yet the Aussie side looked as formidable as ever.
Still, the Sri Lankans have a chance to regain some pride, and halt the Aussie’s charge towards another record. They’ll most likely have Kumar Sangakkara back, their star wicketkeeper/batsman, and perhaps the selectors and coach will halt their nonsensical policies and bring back Lasith Malinga, the slinging quick who, to be honest, would likely have been their best paceman had he played. Australia has no selection dilemmas at this stage, all of their batsmen looked fresh and were on song, and their bowlers were solid as well, MacGill will probably be more settled after his 200th wicket, and Johnson will have lost whatever jitters he may have had previously.
And finally before I do the ratings, I’d like to say that I wholly agree with Terry Jenner, if Muralidaran is going to break Warne’s record, he should be tested under match conditions. I am not accusing him of anything, but it seems only fair that someone who could be regarded as cricket’s greatest ever bowler some day, certainly it is either him or Warne, should have his controversies officially put to rest. Maybe Aussie fans will even tone down the no ball calls!
So my match ratings:
Matthew Hayden: 7/10 – Were it not for a brash shot, Hayden would have made his 50 and probably cruised towards a century, he looked like his break had benefited him greatly, and was playing superbly for most of his innings.
Phil Jaques: 8.5/10 – An outstanding maiden test century, was coping with the bowlers well and will learn from his first encounter with Muralidaran, and should be able to pick the doosra better.
Ricky Ponting: 8.25/10 – Failed to make a century, but looked exquisite at times, playing all the right shots and seeming to cope with Murali quite well at times. His decision to enforce the follow on was a brave one, and one that Australians have traditionally shied away from.
Mike Hussey: 8.5/10 – A fantastic century proved his class after some poor form in the one day arena since The Ashes, Hussey looked skilful as ever, showing an improvement many of us didn’t expect he could be capable of at his current level.
Michael Clarke: 8.75/10 – Clarke is continuing his growth from a pup to a fully grown dog, with added maturity in his innings, and some real skill and class. His century was fantastic coming off poor form in One Day International cricket, but showing that he is a force to be reckoned with in the future, and that his Ashes series was no fluke.
Andrew Symonds: 7.5/10 – Looked impressive and continued his newfound test mindset that he showed after Damien Martyn retire last year, giving Symonds a new, crucial chance at a test berth. He shone then, and is shining once again, his cameo role in the side as a batsman yielding a quick 50, and his bowling picking up a couple of wickets, including opener Marvan Atapattu in the 2nd innings.
Adam Gilchrist: 7.5/10 – Didn’t get to bat, but held 6 catches and allowed through just 4 byes, proving that he is still a world class wicketkeeper, even at his ripe old age of 36.
Brett Lee: 8.75/10 – I have never been a huge Lee fan, but his devastating bowling destroyed the Sri Lankans in the first innings, and cleaned up the tail in the second, taking 8 wickets for the match (4 in each innings) in a consistent and fairly economical spell.
Mitchell Johnson: 7.75/10 – 4 wickets on debut, generating some great movement in the air and off the pitch, and looking very impressive for a 26 year old in his first ever test. Looks like developing into a real force in years to come.
Stuart Clark: 7.5/10 – Just 4 wickets but as usual was the consistent, economical force, providing Australia with its answer to retired Glenn McGrath. I was surprised to see him first change rather than opening bowler with Lee, but he made the most of his chances and looked impressive all the same.
Stuart MacGill: 7.5/10 – Worked his ass off all game to get his 200th wicket, and finally managed the feat, but only 2 wickets was disappointing, and even though he deserves another crack, he will need to lift his game to hold off fellow veteran Brad Hogg.
Marvan Atapattu: 5.75/10 – One of just two Sri Lankan men to score 50 in the match, but a pretty poor performance overall. Also took a catch to give Dilhara Fernando a not-so-much deserved wicket.
Sanath Jayasuriya: 4.25/10 – Gave his team very little batting, scoring 7 and a half (considering the circumstances) respectable 39 in the 2nd innings.
Michael Vandort: 6.5/10 – A great 82 in the 2nd innings showed plenty of promise and improvement from his 1st innings duck, fighting the Australians and helping force the game into a 5th day. One of the best Sri Lankans.
Mahela Jayawardene: 5/10 – Scored an important 49 in the 2nd innings, but overall it was a disappointing game from the skipper who will need to lead his side well at Hobart to give them a chance.
Thilan Samaraweera: 4/10 – Incredibly disappointing, scoring 13 and 20, and looks set to make way for Kumar Sangakkara if he is fit for the Hobart Test.
Chamara Silva: 5.25/10 – A couple of fighting 40’s (one was 43) made the maturing youngster look alright, joining the battle well, and shying him away from at least some of the blame.
Prassana Jayawardene: 4.75/10 – Looked fairly good behind the stumps, getting two stumpings and wasn’t fantastic with the bat, but we’ve known that he isn’t quite Sangakkara in that aspect. Should still keep his spot ahead of Samaraweera if Sangakkara is back.
Farveez Maharoof: 4/10 – Did very little with the ball, as did his fellow pacemen, fought a little with the bat, but overall disappointed and a wicket or two would’ve helped the team’s cause.
Chaminda Vaas: 4/10 – Took the only wicket for a batsman on less than 50 runs, but nothing spectacular from the veteran left arm pace bowler. One who could be forced to make way for Lasith Malinga if Tom Moody’s comments regarding his 1st test dilemma are to be believed.
Dilhara Fernando: 3.75/10 – Tom Moody’s assurance that Fernando was the first paceman to be picked for Sri Lanka added some credibility to Marvan Atapattu’s claims regarding the clown selectors. A wicket complemented his ordinary bowling, and would be lucky to keep his spot for Malinga in the next test.
Muttiah Muralidaran: 7/10 – Bowled quite well, a shining light for Sri Lanka in that aspect, but could’ve done a lot more with some decent support, and without it he was over bowled and could not manage more than 2 wickets, but he did manage to get on top of the batsmen at various times, and was certainly the Sri Lankans’ best bowler – not that it’s a surprise.