The Malinga Sling

The 2nd Test between Australia and Sri Lanka starts tomorrow at Cairns. The Cairns Test last year was played on a fast and true pitch. More of the same would be welcomed this year!

But first, a recap on the 1st Test, which was won convincingly by Australia, by a margin of 149 runs.

Aust 207 & 201 v Sri Lanka 97 & 162

Noteworthy points:

1. No Sri Lankan batsman passed 50.

2. Darren Lehmann passed 50 in both innings (57 & 51)

3. The only other man to pass 50 was fill-in skipper, Gilchrist, with the innings of the match – run out for 80 in the second dig (following a first innings gozza).

4. Bowling highlights were Vaas 5-31, McGrath (Ooh ah) 5-37 and Kasper 7-39.

5. Debutant Malinga caused quite a sensation with his action. He is a “slinger” in true Thommo style. However, he is more whippy and is incredibly round arm – his arm is almost horizontal through delivery. He was hard to handle (and helped somewhat by the pitch) and took a creditable 4-42 in the Aussie second innings.

6. Elliot, playing in his first Test for over five years, with nothing really to gain and everything to lose, lost. He made 1 & 0. This was always a one Test appointment and even if he had scored 100 in each innings he would still not have been retained for the second Test. I still think that he should have gone for the hundred in each innings approach.

7. The third umpire can no longer be used to adjudicate on whether catches have been carried. This came to light before Langer and Australia had scored on the first morning, as Langer was lucky to survive a catch at first slip. Much was said about this incident. My opinion is that the umpires made the correct decision. Under the circumstances, they must be guided by the catcher and the first thing that he did was look at the ground – it had to create doubt.

8. The pitch has been heartily criticised, being labelled as sub standard and “not what you want to see” (spoken, of course, by one of the batsmen). I must add that Ricky Ponting spoke up and defended the pitch (from afar) and even went as far as saying “You don’t want [flat, easy] pitches like we had last summer” (why don’t they ever speak in the first person?). The pitch was a little slow, had some inconsistent bounce and wasn’t an easy proposition. There was also tons of swing and plenty of movement of the deck. After the first day, Vass was quoted as saying “a bowler can do wonderful thing on this pitch”. Messrs McGrath and Kasprowicz obviously agreed. I don’t think the pitch was that bad – it would be good to see a bit more pace but batsmen these day, in generally, have it too good.

I’m not sure what the long term solution is for the Darwin pitch. It is a drop in pitch. I don’t know whether a permanent pitch would help. I have no idea about pitches except that they are made from grass and are rolled almost to death before use. And in the West Indies they might burn the pitch. And in in England it might succumb to Fusarium – a mysterious fungus that helped Derek Underwood no end. Whatever the case, the Darwin pitch is worth some investment. I think Top End cricket has a big future. In today’s busy schedule, it allows Australia to play home matches year round and meet the tight requirements of the ICC to host everyone on a four yearly basis.

Perhaps the ACB will be able to entertain the notion of hosting South Africa for five tests and scaling back say, the West Indies. It is true that the cricket tours are often planned four years in advance (at least) and short term slumps cannot be addressed easily in deciding how many Tests a series merits. However, the West Indies have been on the slide for at least 5 years and are currently ranked 8th on the ICC Test table – and they are a long behind Sri Lanka on 7th. It doesn’t seem right that the longest, and therefore, most Testing series, are not reserved for the most worthy opposition!