Ball One – Kumar Sangakkara is a class act who enjoys Australian conditions and the combative Australian approach to the game. Showing the impact of Twenty20 cricket on the 50overs format, he came out and timed the ball all round the ground from his first delivery. Chasing a modest 240, an hour or so of such immaculate batsmanship in powerplay cricket can make such a target look very small indeed.
Ball Two – In ODIs, indeed in all cricket, the ability to make something happen is priceless. With Sanga already seizing the initiative, new boy Xavier Doherty, pulled off a sensational run out to see off Tharanga. Such is the quality of fielding these days that one can become blase about feats that would have had us talking for weeks just a generation ago.
Ball Three – Shane Watson, in swing friendly conditions in England and on medium pace friendly pitches in India, looked a proper all rounder, taking wickets when MJ’s raw pace and Hauritz’s slow stuff was going all round the park. In Australian conditions, with pace in the wicket, his cutters won’t grip and his swingers tend to come on to the middle of the bat. He’s worth his place as a batsman alone, but he’s probably gone from a fifth bowler to a sixth bowler on the plane home.
Ball Four – This writer’s first sight of two newish Australians: Xavier Doherty and John Hastings. Of course, first impressions can be misleading – one SK Warne didn’t look all that when he first played international cricket. What strikes me, notwithstanding Doherty’s instant dismissal of Jayawardene, is that both players look (and their records suggest, with neither in the first flush of youth) that they are exactly the kind of bits and pieces players that England have selected for years – usually without success. Australians will soon see an attack featuring three new tourists and one player enjoying a renaissance – Broad, Anderson, Finn and Swann are very much full-on bowlers, with only Bresnan (and, in ODIs, Yardy) true bits and pieces merchants.
Ball Five – Bits and pieces he may be, but Xavier Doherty has turned the ball and bowled the courageous line that attacks the stumps. Would Hauritz have done the same? One can only speculate, but Doherty has delivered at an opportune time for himself and his country.
Ball Six – The purpose of these “final overs” is not to provide a synthetic overview of the day’s play (there are plenty of those available), but a set of impressions as the “balls” are delivered. The Lankans have lost four big wickets for just 13 runs in three overs – or should I say that the Australians have taken those four wickets? Probably a bit of both. If you can punch a hole like that in a middle order, you won’t lose many cricket matches, and Australia surely won’t lose this one.
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