Australia v Sri Lanka at WACA 22/12/02

Cricket News 23/12/02

Match Report by Jon Cocks

A great team can still perform with forced changes. Two were forced on Australia on this hot, stormy day in Perth. Adam Gilchrist needed to rest his hamstrings and groin, so his West Australian understudy Ryan Campbell came in and Australia lost nothing behind the stumps.

Fellow Sandgroper Brad Hogg deputised for the injured Shane Warne and the less-informed cricket fan would never have known that the left-arm chinaman bowler had not played an international for six years. The smile could not be wiped from his face all evening, especially after he snared a wicket and made some excellent saves in the field.

There was a third, unforced change. Jason Gillespie was rested to give Andy Bichel a game. Again, Bichel took up where Gillespie left off.

Another day, another run-a-ball demolition job done by the rampant Australian upper order - acting Australian vice captain Darren Lehmann put up his hand to open the innings in place of Gilly. A look at the scoreboard after 25 overs suggested that there was absolutely no difference to the type of business that is usually transacted by the regular incumbent.

From the first ball he faced, after Ponting won the toss and elected to bat, Lehmann was assured and confident, seeing the white ball like a bowling ball and finding the gaps in the field with deftness and clinical efficiency.

Vaas was getting some movement in the air and both he and Guneratne were seeking to bowl an off stump line. Lehmann was getting across, however, and turning balls to leg, so much so that when Hayden did it as well, second slip was moved to mid wicket to cover the hole in the field.

Lehmann hit the first four of the match and followed it an over later with the first six, a well-timed, thumping pull that was well taken in the crowd at square leg, beyond the farthest fence from the pitch.

Changing tactics to wrong-foot the bowlers, Lehmann ran one of the face of his open blade to the third man fence and began a series of cracking cuts, late cuts and square drives, punctuated by stepping back a pace and lofting one straight down the ground.

Hayden got away with a fine edge that was taken by Kaluwitharana and began to ride his luck, walking a few steps down the wicket a number of times, seeking to force the boundary, or nudge the single.

Meanwhile, Boof was on fire, deliberately playing the up-and-under shot over the keeper for a boundary and leg glancing delightfully for another. A punishing cover drive took him to 49 and he raised the fifty shortly after with a push for one for from the final ball of the fifteenth over.

The Australian hundred came up in the following over, but there was no respite for Jayasuriya's men, as he resorted to the gentle spin of Arnold. Lehmann and Hayden both clubbed Fernando off the back foot, the latter's six raising his fifty. Lehmann essayed the up-and-under shot for another boundary to fine third man.

Jayasuriya tried to stem the flow himself and began well, but a legside wide conceded four more in byes. Finally, however, Sanath had some joy as Hayden hit him out to Jayawardene at mid wicket.

Lehmann got off the Devil's number (87) with a glorious late cut from the back foot to the deep backward point boundary. Ponting got into his stride at once with a set of nudged singles.

Lehmann moved to 99 with a few singles of his own and Jayasuriya didn't bother bringing the field in, to make Lehmann force the shot that would raise the century. His hundred came from a simple push to mid on.

The Australian innings lost a little momentum when Ponting (14) leapt down the wicket to the medium-fast Nissanka and was bowled a little unluckily off his pads.

Lehmann chopped Nissanka onto his stumps to depart for a glorious 119 from that many balls, with twelve fours and a six, and Martyn (9) stretched and thrashed the same bowler's wide, over-pitched delivery to Arnold in the covers. Australia’s momentum faltered slightly at 4-223.

A little later, Campbell edged one to the keeper and Umpire Koertzen erred for the second time, ruling in the batsman's favour. Restoring the momentum, Bevan and Campbell hustled hard between the wickets, regularly turning ones into twos.

Fernando returned to bowl out and his first ball removed Campbell, caught superbly down at ankle level by Arnold, who had to run in from deep backward square leg and dive forward to accept the chance.

Watson needed to play a cameo to prove that he can bat at this level. He made the most of his chance today in excellent conditions, trying to score off everything and finishing with 25 (from 22), while the experienced Bevan remained not out on 40 (from 41), with a couple of nicely struck fours in a flourishing finish.

Australia finished with a daunting 5-305 from the full 50 overs. All the Sri Lankan bowlers copped a pounding, with Nissanka (3-54) at least doing a little damage. Russell Arnold (0-46 from 9 overs of loopy off spin) was not completely disgraced either.

The rain sent the players from the field during the fifteenth over, as Sri Lanka tottered on 3-50. There had been storms around Perth earlier, with rain, thunder and lightning and a shower washed across the ground during the innings break.

McGrath and Lee bowled a superb opening spell, with McGrath's line impeccable as always and Lee fast and furious, bowling the most rapid measured ball of the summer - a 156.2 km/hr thunderbolt.

The Aussies were on their toes in the field, with recalled Brad Hogg making a glorious save at point. He short-circuited a cracking square cut by Jayasuriya, who was out in the following over, attempting to whip Lee over mid wicket, only for it to lob into the hands of Andy Bichel.

Mubarak struggled against both bowlers, but Attapattu (15) showed his class with a couple of caressed back foot drives of exquisite timing, before trying to cut McGrath, only to inside edge it through to Campbell, to make it 2-24.

Jayawardene played out the wicket maiden, and Lee steamed in from the other end to give no respite. Campbell got off the ground magnificently to hook in one with his right glove that really took off.

The next over from McGrath conjured another wicket, as Mubarak's thick edge went to Hayden in the gully, who accepted the sharp chance and Sri Lanka slumped to 3-25.

As the rain threatened, Ponting, perhaps mindful of the requirement that 25 overs must be completed for a match to be official, called Hogg into the attack. He bowled his first over, a tidy affair, before the rain became too heavy.

Luckily, the showers passed fairly quickly and the players resumed at 3-50. Lehmann came into the attack, dropping into a good line and length at once. With the final ball of his first over, he dived full-length to his right and accepted in the fingertips of his right hand a breath-taking return catch, removing the dangerous Jayawardene (21).

In the following over, Hogg induced a lofted pull from Arnold (15), which was taken coolly by Bichel at mid wicket, although Hayden was steaming at him full tilt, also with his eyes on the ball.

Brad Hogg (10-0-43-1) switched ends when Bichel (8-0-28-0) came into the attack and both replacement bowlers put in honest performances.

Kumar Sangakkara (40) and Romesh Kaluwitharana (35) put together a stand of some substance that realised 78 runs in just under 20 overs, giving Sri Lanka some hope of at least denying Australia the bonus point.

Shane Watson (5-0-27-3) was introduced to the bowling crease, and despite a less than auspicious first few deliveries, he split the two wicketkeepers, when Kaluwitharana spooned a slower ball down to Bevan at mid off.

Sensing a kill, the Australian energy lifted palpably in the field. Sangakkara stood and delivered a cracking drive as a last act of defiance, but holed out to Bevan at mid on shortly after from Watson.

This writer's heart was in his mouth when Man of the Match Darren Lehmann landed hard on his shoulder, trying to take a catch at cover, running with the flight of the ball. However, the Redback skipper was seen in the field to be telling Ponting that he was all right, despite a visit from Alcott to have a cautionary look.

Lee returned to the attack and immediately struck, having Vaas (7) caught by Martyn at slip and bowling Fernando off his back pad first ball. Guneratne evaded the hat trick by the extra coat of varnish not on his bat, as Lee's next ball - a big swinging yorker - missed the outside edge of his bat by that margin.

Shane Watson had Guneratne caught behind by Campbell with the final ball of his next over, as Sri Lanka had lost 5-23 in their final six overs. The islanders capitulated seven overs short of the full fifty for a paltry 163. This crushing 142-run defeat conceded not only the bonus point but also a realisation that their World Cup campaign on the faster and more bouncy wickets of South Africa was in dire trouble – Murali or no Murali.

Australia has never looked in better shape and will now enjoy a pleasant Christmas break, before heading into the Boxing Day Test later this week, brimming with confidence.

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