Aussies out to seal series

Thursday, 8 September 2011 00:21 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Following an impressive 125-run victory inside four days at Galle, Australia can wrap up a series victory over Sri Lanka when the second Test starts in Kandy on Thursday.

The visitors seized the upper hand on a surface described as a dustbowl, but the early indication is the Pallekele International Stadium pitch looks a more traditional cricket wicket.

Australia have shown their hand by making just the one forced change to the starting XI that got the job done in the series opener.

Shaun Marsh, the son of former vice-captain Geoff, will make his Test debut as a replacement for Ricky Ponting, who returned home for the birth of his second child.

The 28-year-old comes in as a straight swap for the former captain at No.3, which has been seen as something of a surprise, considering Usman Khawaja had filled the role in his Test debut last January when Ponting was last absent.

The Western Australian left-hander is eagerly anticipating donning the baggy green cap for the first time.

“It’s an exciting few days coming up, it’s a dream to play Test cricket, Test cricket’s the pinnacle,” Marsh said.

Marsh becomes the fifth debutant to feature during Clarke’s captaincy career, and if recent history is any guide, he should handle Test cricket with aplomb.

The two most recent debutants - Nathan Lyon and Trent Copeland did just that in Galle.

The pair played junior representative cricket alongside one another in country New South Wales and could never have imagined such a dream start to their international careers.

Lyon, who capped a remarkable rise from Adelaide Oval groundsman to number one spinner in less than 12 months, became just the second Australian bowler to take a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket.

The victim - Sri Lanka’s best batsman, Kumar Sangakkara.

The 23-year-old from Young showed it was no fluke by going onto take 5-34 from 15 overs in the first innings and added another in the second dig to finish with match figures of 6-107.

Copeland’s initial contribution came with the bat, hitting the first ball he faced at Test level for a boundary.

Ironically the first ball he bowled also went for four, but his second delivered the Bathurst product a maiden Test scalp in Sri Lankan skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan.

While Dilshan proved Copeland’s lone scalp on debut, the tall right-arm paceman bowled with the discipline he’s renowned for at first-class level, conceding just 44 runs from 28 overs.

Copeland complemented an Australian attack that all chipped in for the cause.

Ryan Harris continues to show why he is such a valuable member of the team when fit, claiming a match-winning 5-62 in the second innings.

Mitchell Johnson claimed a couple of wickets, while Shane Watson’s all-round abilities were on show with match figures of 5-30.

Watson, who missed out with the bat (22 and a golden duck), was able to unsettle the home side’s middle order with his reverse swing.

Runs were certainly hard to come by in Galle, making Michael Hussey’s 95 in the first innings even more important.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spoke about the visitors’ fight with the bat in the first test.

“I think it shows small steps forward, we’re trying to move forward as a cricket team and be better cricketers,” Haddin said.

“To do that you’ve got to play in different conditions whether it’s here, England, South Africa, wherever, you’ve got to make sure you’re trying to get better and better so you can present yourself well on all surfaces.”

“From a team point of view I think it was a very good result to get the win, especially on something so foreign to us.”

Mystery surrounds the Sri Lankan line-up and whether spinner Ajantha Mendis will play in preference to off-spinner Suraj Randiv.

The decision to leave Mendis out in Galle backfired, although Rangana Herath claimed seven wickets, Randiv took just two and went wicketless in the second innings.

One of the bright spots in a losing cause was the performance of emerging paceman Suranga Lakmal.

The 24-year-old looks a real prospect for the future and may well develop into Sri Lanka’s spearhead now that Lasith Malinga has retired from Test cricket.

The batting order should remain the same with Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara the key planks, while 95 from Angelo Matthews illustrates he can play a role with the willow.

The weather forecast for the Test is OK with thunderstorms predicted throughout the five days, but the bureau saying there is a 50-50 chance of rain.