Island Cricket

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tourists armed for pace warfare | The Australian

SRI LANKA's batting may be a shambles just days out from the first Test at the Gabba, but claims the tourists possess a pace attack capable of challenging Australia like never before appear disconcertingly accurate.

After batting itself into a losing position against Queensland over the past three days, Sri Lanka's fast bowlers almost salvaged victory from the tour match at Allan Border Field.

Queensland scrambled to a tense four-wicket victory in fading light, scoring 6-142 thanks to an unbeaten 62 from Clint Perren as wickets tumbled around him. Cruising at 0-35 and needing just another 107 for victory, Queensland lost 5-16 as pacemen Farveez Maharoof (3-33) and Lasith Malinga (2-49) suddenly tore the batting to pieces.

Queensland captain Jimmy Maher believes Sri Lanka is more capable of winning its first Test in Australia than at any stage during eight previous attempts going back almost 20 years.

"They're a good side if they can get enough runs. Obviously Murali (spinner Muttiah Muralidaran) will come back in and strengthen them up from the slow bowling department," Maher said, with the first Test beginning on Thursday.

"If they can get enough runs they can cause Australia some problems."

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene is confident his fast bowlers can make an impact.

"They showed they have the potential to do that," Jayawardene said. "We just have to take the opportunities."

He even suggested that Sri Lanka may include four fast bowlers with Murali, leaving wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardane batting at six.

"That's something we'll have to talk about in the next few days," the captain said.

Maharoof was considered fourth in line for a Test place, behind Malinga, Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando, the big fast bowler who was rested from this match along with Murali.

However, Maharoof has now bowled himself into contention with six wickets in the game. He troubled all the batsmen, bowling a generally full length and gaining consistent movement off the seam on the grassy strip.

Even so, playing four fast bowlers and Murali appears a risk given the fragile nature of the top order, with Sri Lanka's best batsman, Kumar Sangakkara, injured and out of contention for at least the first Test of the two-match series.

Wicketkeeper Jayawardane was the only Sri Lankan to make a half-century in the first innings (58 not out), while veteran left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas (84) was the the only tourist to manage it in the second innings.

The Sri Lankans failed to cope with the constant sideways movement off the grassy pitch and would not have been overjoyed to hear Maher suggest this strip was more like the Gabba than any other previous wickets at Allan Border Field.

However, the Gabba is likely to have more pace and bounce and less sideways movement.

"If this pitch had pace and bounce I think we would have handled it," Jayawardene said.

"It just had lateral movement only on this wicket. It's quite difficult to handle. The Brisbane guys who have grown up here found it difficult.

"There are no excuses, we probably could have been much more positive with our shot selection."

Veteran left-handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya was out for single figures in both innings, reinforcing the belief that he is vulnerable to short-of-a-length balls sliding across him.

Limping with a bruised heal he claims will not keep him out of the Test match, Jayawardene played down his own modest form, which has included two ducks and just one half-century in four innings on tour.

"That's how things go," he said. "You want to spend time out there. When you go into a Test whatever has happened has past, you just need to concentrate on the next ball."

Malinga, the awkward, whippy slinger, was on a hat-trick yesterday when he trapped Chris Simpson (1) and first-innings century maker Andy Bichel (0) with successive deliveries.

Both batsmen were surprised by low full tosses which turned out to be slower balls.

"Malinga is very difficult to pick up," Maher said. "He's awkward because you're not used to it.

"Your eyes are normally attuned to getting the ball from up higher, but he comes from the umpire's shoulder, which is quite a difficult place to pick the ball up from. Because his arm action is so low it (slower ball) comes out the side of his hand. It's a shock ball, because you're expecting a missile and it's quite slow.

"It's a good, attacking weapon to have."

Worryingly Andrew Symonds, who has a poor Test record against Sri Lanka, failed twice in the game.

For the second time in the match he was caught edging injudiciously outside off stump.

This time he was wonderfully caught one-handed by Jayawardene diving full length to his left at second slip.

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