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Shaminda Eranga debut first ball wicket in Tests:

Shaun Marsh(als) Australia to 235 for 5

Elmo RODRIGOPULLE

Put into bat in overcast conditions and on a slow wicket, the Australians shown the way by another masterly knock from Shaun Marsh 81 did well to end the First day of the final Test against Sri Lanka on 235 for 5 when bad light stopped play at 5.32pm at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground here, yesterday.

At the wickets were the ever reliable Michael Hussey on 63 and Brad Haddin on 21. Suranga Lakmal had 2 for 39 and Shaminda Eranga 2 for 52 on a wicket that improved considerably after lunch. Anything over 350 and Australia will be in the driving seat.

First ball debut wicket


Shaminda Eranga

Marsh who made a memorable debut 141 in Pallekele in the Second Test, was once again in cracking form. He came in to face the ninth ball at the fall of Phil Hughes’ wicket and showing unwavering concentration and excellent technique gave a lesson on how to bat on a slow wicket. When looking good for another three figure score, he failed to read the spin of Rangana Herath and was bowled.

Two stands

Marsh was involved in two stands of 79 with Ricky Ponting for the third wicket and 70 with Michal Hussey for the fifth wicket. Marsh batted for 276 minutes, faced 207 deliveries and stayed put for 276 minutes.

There was overnight rain with a little thunder and lightning and it was overcast. But thankfully everything improved and when the captains Michael Clarke and Tillekeratne Dilshan walked out to toss conditions were good for play.

Dilshan, as he often does, won the toss and gleefully asked Australia to bat. Australia had made one change with Ricky Ponting coming in for Usman Khwaja. Ponting was going to bat number 4 with Marsh who made a debut hundred at Pallekele keeping his position as one drop.

Sri Lanka made three changes. Rangana Herath, Lahiru Thirimanne and Shamindra Eranga came in for Suraj Randiv, Thilan Samaraweera and Seekkuge Prasanna. Eranga who was making his debut was presented his cap by Kumar Sangakkara.

Pace heavy

It was sensible to note that that the Lankans were going in pace heavy with Chanaka Welegedera, Suranga Lakmal and Shamndra Eranga with one frontline spinner in left armer Rangana Herath with Dilshan for support. Earlier the Lankans went in with two pacemen and two spinners which was a safety first method and not a positive and attacking one. While Lahiru Thirimanne deserved to play, it was inexplicable the dropping of Dilshan to bat in the middle. As Captain Dilshan should be in the frontline and leading by example. In the second innings of the Pallekele Test he seemed to be slipping into batting form if his 36 and an opening stand of 81 was an indication.

With the wicket being kept covered owing to the rains, it had to have some moisture on it and with overcast conditions the opening overs were going to be decisive. After a maiden over from Chanaka Welegedera to Shane Watson, Lakmal coming on from the tennis court end bowled Phil Hughes off the bat with his second ball for a duck. 0-1-0.

Eranga strikes

Watson and Shaun Marsh took the score to 22 at which stage debutant Shamindra Eranga wa brought on after four unsuccesful overs from Welegedera.

Eranga struck gold with his first ball in the exclusive land of what cricket is all about – Test- by inducing Watson to drive too early and loft to Dilshan at point. Watson made 8. 22-1-8. Eranga was the second Lankan bowler to get a wicket with the first ball on debut. The first being Chamila Gamage.

It was a first ball debut wicket for this 25 year old emerging pacie from a little known cricket playing school St Mary’s Chilaw. It was a wicket that he will always remember and treasure for the rest of his career.

The pre lunch session was slow going and that was understandable because the wicket was slow and it was not easy playing strokes. Marsh and Ponting were in no hurry to score and played attacking strokes only when the loose balls came along. Ponting played the shot of the session when he cover drove Welegedera to the cover boundary.

The Lankan pace bowlers were not making use of the seaming conditions. They were either pitching too short, or bowling wide. Herath coming on obtained turn and bounce once beating Ponting by flighting the ball.

Instead of concentrating on flight, he continued bowling flat.

At lunch

Marsh and Ponting took lunch at 63 without further loss with Marsh on 26 and Ponting on 25. Immediately the umpires called lunch there was a heavy downpour and a prompt start after lunch looked bleak. The start was delayed by 30 minutes.

It was slow going after lunch with Australia attempting to consolidate. Ponting and Marsh took their partnership to 79, when Ponting on 48 and two short of a 50, attempted a big drive to a wide ball from Lakmal and snicked to wicket keeper Jayawardena. He hit 6 fours. He played some lovely cover drives. 101-3-48.

Skipper Clarke who came in three drop was off colour. He took a long time to get off the mark and after glancing a four was out Ponting fashion attempting a drive off a wide ball off Eranga and touching it to Jayawardena behind the stumps. He made 8. It was an innings not in keeping with his class.120-4-6.

‘Mr Cricket’ Michael Hussey joined another left hander Marsh and playing with responsibility added 34 runs and took tea at 154 for 4 with Marsh threatening on 68 and Hussey on 18. Marsh batted in exemplary fashion, while was content to support him.

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