Island Cricket

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ian Chappell: Poor fielding cost Sri Lanka

The first day's play at the Gabba could have been much better for Sri Lanka [than it turned out to be]. They were a bit unlucky at first because when they won the toss, the skies were really overcast and it looked like it was going to be a terrific day for bowling. There was a bit of green in the pitch and Mahela Jayawardene had no hesitation in choosing to bowl first. He was unlucky, because the rain came down and there wasn't much play in the first session when the ball could have really done something. He got another bad break in the lunch break, when the sun came down and the pitch dried out very quickly. And from then on, the pitch played remarkably well.

Phil Jaques took a long time to get started but he was able to take his time because Matthew Hayden was in his typical dominant mood. Hayden got on top of the bowling, and the scoring-rate kept moving nicely even with Jaques pushing and prodding at the other end. But to Jaques' credit, he didn't panic, even though he took a long time to get off the mark. And once he did get going, he started to play his normal game. Everybody who has seen him play say, that that is the great thing about Jaques: he knows his game and that's what he sticks to. He certainly did that today and produced a hundred. This not only gives him the pleasure of scoring a Test hundred but it will probably ensure his position in the Australian side for the rest of the summer, which is a terrific bonus. He played well and he deserved it [the century].

Muttiah Muralitharan was the man who got things going for Sri Lanka. He first did it in the field: he took a magnificient running catch to get rid of Hayden. Then when it looked like Ricky Ponting and Jaques were on top; [Dilhara] Fernando was bowling poorly and the Sri Lankan stocks were falling badly; Murali produced a terrific spell with the ball. It was a good stumping to get rid of Ponting; Prasanna Jayawardene was very quick with his hands - he got the bails off very quickly.

Murali got good support from Chaminda Vaas and I thought that [Farveez] Maharoof bowled well too. But the man who really let Sri Lanka down was Fernando. He struggled all day; he looked to be just putting the ball rather than charging in and banging the ball in. The Sri Lankans would have been wondering why they ever decided to leave Lasith Malinga out of the side. I don't know why they did it [not pick Malinga]. If you've got a man with genuine pace, surely, you've got to play him. That was a mistake and they paid for it.

But the Sri Lankans could have had a much better day if they had fielded well. Four or five catches went down; some of them difficult - but if you're playing a side like Australia, you have got to grab hold of those if you are looking to cause them any problems.

By stumps Sri Lanka had got three wickets; but they easily could have had six or seven with Murali having four or five of them, but it wasn't to be. But you feel, Australia having batted first - and they will probably go on to get a reasonable total - are really well placed in this game. The pitch will go on to become a bit quicker, and then I am sure, that later on in the game it will spin a bit, and that will help Stuart MacGill. It's a matter of what could have been for Sri Lanka. They let themselves down in the field and Australia are in a reasonably good position after day one.



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