Adaptable Australia make further strides on subcontinent mission

July 03, 2022

A look at some of the key elements of their performance which came together in Galle

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Australia lost the toss but still managed to secure victory in the opening Test against Sri Lanka

Get them quickly

There has been some positive batting, to say the least, in Test cricket over recent weeks. Australia knew they would have to adapt from the style that served them well in Pakistan, where they largely ground out big totals on surfaces that started flat and didn't really break up. Galle was always likely to be a short Test, so it was a case of getting the runs before the unplayable balls got you. David Warner set the tone on the first evening and though that was followed by a stumble, Australia did not waver. "Failure is absolutely okay, as long as you are failing in a way you are happy to be," Pat Cummins later said.

Usman Khawaja mixed restraint with his full variety of sweeps (although actually finished with one of the more modest strike-rates), defended late and wore a smile whenever he was beaten by a delivery he could do nothing about. The defining stand then came between Cameron Green and Alex Carey, sweeping Sri Lanka's spinners to distraction, and scored at one-day tempo, which took Australia into the lead while Cummins' long levers were also useful. As an example of how Australia adapted, since April 2014 when ESPNcricinfo has collected shot data, they scored by far their highest amount of runs (111) from the sweep.

Green's giant strides

Green won't have seen anything like this in Perth, or anywhere else in his young career. But you wouldn't have guessed it by the way he compiled his superb 77. "That was the difference in the end," Cummins said. From his first delivery, Green was using his feet, getting down to Dhananjaya de Silva to make a delivery into a full toss and bunting it away. It set the tone. His reach often allowed him to get to the ball before it perform its mischievous tricks. The sweep, a shot previously rarely seen by Green in his short Test career, brought him 25 runs - before this innings, eight runs was the most it had accrued him in a single knock. "I think if you go out there just defending, you can get yourself in trouble," he said at the presentation. "If you're just looking to score it's probably going to give yourself the best chance. If you're going to get out at some point you might as well play some shots."

Swepson's sliding doors

In a match dedicated to the late Shane Warne, there was a symbolism when Mitchell Swepson got the nod for Australia's XI after his place was in doubt. That he probably wouldn't have played if Jon Holland's spinning finger had been right is a fascinating debate. Was too much emphasis put on the numbers of left-arm finger spinners? It would certainly have been rough for him to miss out on such a surface. Whether Swepson's match will be looked back on in the way Warne's match-winning effort in Colombo in 1992 is recalled remains to be seen, but he certainly had a big part to play in Australia's victory. His pair of leg breaks in the first innings were superb pieces of bowling and he didn't flinch as the Sri Lankans tried to pressure him. Perhaps his luck changed, too. After seeing a number of chances go down in Pakistan, the wicket that put him on a hat-trick came from a juggling catch by Warner at gully.

Carey’s growth

Carey would have known he was in for an interesting match when he needed a concussion test in the sixth over after Nathan Lyon's first delivery spat past the edge into his helmet. His Test debut was a reasonably hurried affair after the sudden departure of Tim Paine shortly before the Ashes. After a solid start at the Gabba he was not entirely convincing with glove or bat, although questions over whether he was the right man were premature. Since then he has been excellent in testing conditions, with Galle being the most extreme yet. His sweepathon wrestled the match into Australia's favour and he twice held bottom edges off the same stroke. The one he took in the second innings, off Dimuth Karunaratne which began Sri Lanka's slide, was followed by a piece of analysis from Brad Haddin on the host broadcast which noted how the ball before had bounced significantly, but Carey had held his position the next delivery to be able to take the chance. It is often said wicketkeepers are only noticed when they make mistakes, so performances like this should be applauded.

Cummins' captaincy

It was another good game for the skipper, who did not have to be a bowling captain in the second innings. After the match he referenced the planning that had gone on behind the scenes ahead of the series and in the middle he steered the ship impressively.

There were little moments, such as having the deep backward square well in from the rope which Kusal Mendis top-edged to in the second innings, and he also did not over-attack with the field settings for Swepson. Then he threw the ball to Travis Head and watched the part-time offspinner rip a delivery through the gate of Dinesh Chandimal on his way to 4 for 10. Given the conditions it was perhaps not the most out-of-the-box move you'll see, but a captain can enjoy them when they work out so well. –Cricinfo



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