Sri Lanka V Australia @ Kandy - Day 1 Thoughts

Sri Lanka V Australia @ Kandy - Day 1 Thoughts

1.Pitiful Performance from Sri Lanka 

Fears of a one sided test series between Sri Lanka and Australia didn't take long to turn to reality in a one sided first day in Kandy. A struggling Third Grade side in Sydney might cop a spray if they were bowled out in under 35 overs after being sent in on a green top away from home. For an International Test side to be rolled at home for just 117 after electing to bat first in just 34.2 overs is poor to say the least. Whilst conditions were murky and the ball did move around and take some turn there was little resistance from the Sri Lankan top or middle order. Nathan Lyon is an excellent off spinner, however off spinners should never take 3 wickets in 3 overs on the first day of a test match. 

Whilst you can't expect miracles from a side containing a Top 3 averaging in the mid 30s at Test level, they are better then what they showed here. Four of their top 5 batsman had played over 20 test matches and they would have expected to put up a better showing yesterday. For this series to become more then a passing interest for most, Angelo Matthews and his batsman will have to show a lot more skill and resolve as the series roles on. 

2. Sangakkara and Jayawardene Leave a Huge Hole 

With over 24000 test runs, 72 centuries, and a combined test batting of 53 between them to say Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene leave a huge hole in this Sri Lankan test side might just be the understatement of the century. Indeed for the better part of of this century the combination of Sangakkara and Jayawardene have been the rock in which the whole Sri Lankan team has been built. Unlike other ageing batting legends in Ponting, Tendulkar and Clarke, the Sri Lankan duo were still at the peak of their powers when they pulled up stumps. Sangakkara averaged over 70 in his last 2 years of test cricket, whilst Jayawardene managed an average of just under 60 in his final ten Tests.

Sri Lanka are not quite in the depths of despair as the once mighty West Indies, however are not far behind as a test outfit. Indeed in their last 8  Test matches Sri Lanka's only 2 victories came against a shadow West Indian outfit at home. Among the 5 losses were 3 very heavy defeats, 2 by an innings or more. Unless rain plays a part I can't see this series ending in anything other then a 3-0 victory for the Australian side. 

3. Good Reward for O'Keefe's Perseverance 

With over 200 first class wickets at under 25 Steven O'Keefe's numbers have gone under the radar for a long time in Australia. Many decent finger spinners toil away in the 30s and 40s in Shield Cricket. However O'Keefe has been a consistently excellent contributor for close to a decade in what is an unforgiving competition for tweakers. While his bowling can look fairly innocuous to the naked eye with his basic action and lack of significant turn, dismissing him as a Test proposition would be doing him a disservice I feel. O'Keefe provides a very valuable package for Australia, particular on dry tracks away from home. His handy lower order batting and energetic personality make him a likeable and valuable team man. O'Keefe has an economy rate of around 2.5 in State cricket and can always hold up an end whether he is taking wickets or not. He builds pressure which is invaluable for any fielding captain.

With just 2 tests in Dubai and Sydney to his name O"Keefe has had to feed off scraps at Test level. Australia's mighty strong pace battery have been accompanied by the exceptional Nathan Lyon for the last 5 years almost exclusively. While it remains unlikely Australia will play 2 spinners during  home summers they do have a high voltage tour of India on the horizon. O"Keefe will struggle to surpass  Lyon as Australia's number 1 spinner any time soon, a consistent 3 test performance over in Sri Lanka will put his name up in lights for for the powder-keg Indian tour.