Australia vs Sri Lanka

Australia play Sri Lanka in an actual Test match on Thursday, and it is rumoured that the ICC have started an internal investigation to find out how such an anachronism got on the international fixtures list.

Australia haven’t played a Test since they farewelled their trio of stars in January; in that period they’ve played an abomination of ODI games and Twenty20 fixtures. These days, when the Australian players wish to get about town unrecognised, they wear their white Test outfits.

As to the actual game itself, the portents are not promising. Rain is forecast to play havoc for the first three days, no bad thing in itself, given the drought in Australia, but neither side comes into this game with much form. The Australian bowlers who played in four day cricket last weekend failed to impress, with the exception of Stuart Clark, and the Sri Lankans have likewise found the going hard, failing to beat a side comprising the best of Australia’s state Second XI’s, and then being defeated by Queensland. No doubt after so much ODI cricket, the disciplines of line and length, batting judgement and patience, have become a little rusty.

For all that, I’m looking forward to a good contest. Sri Lanka are, in my view, one of the stronger sides in world cricket, with a potent batting line up and a balanced bowling attack. It is a disgrace that Cricket Australia, for commercial reasons of course, has only invited the Sri Lankans to play two Tests. I do expect Australia to still win- even without McGrath and Warne they are a very powerful team, but it won’t be quite so easy as it used to be.

Australia give a first cap to Mitchell Johnson, and Phil Jacques and Stuart MacGill are recalled. Sri Lanka’s team is not quite settled, but they are hampered by the loss of Kumar Sangakarra with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, in a further outbreak of Test cricket, South Africa host New Zealand. The main talking point there is that South Africa are not playing their veteran Shaun Pollock, preferring the younger brigade. Daniel Vettori makes his debut as New Zealand captain.

Australia vs Sri Lanka preview.

South Africa vs New Zealand preview.

It is all very curious

New Zealand wrapped up the First Test against New Zealand, winning by five wickets. The final day was not without controversy, after Muttiah Muralitharan was run out in strange circumstances.

Kumar Sangakkara had brought up his century with a neat flick down to third man. Murali finished the run, and without waiting for the ball to become dead, he motioned up the pitch to congratulate his team-mate. He had only advanced a few paces when the ball was returned from the deep and wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum promptly removed the bails, running him out.

It was a harsh act and Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene protested it was against the spirit of the game, but New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming pointed out that had the ball gone for overthrows, Sri Lanka would have gladly accepted them.

I can understand Sri Lankan fans being disappointed but it is the responsibility of the batsman to protect his wicket. Watching the Ashes, I have noticed that batsmen on both sides now refuse to pick up the ball in situations where they might do so in a club game, precisely to avoid the possibility of a controversial situation arising. To me, the bottom line is that Murali didn’t value his wicket highly enough, and he paid the price.

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