Andrew Faulkner, in The Australian, 28 December 2012 …… writing one day vbefore the final rout
FED up with his teammates’ butter-fingered efforts to take the chances he created during yesterday’s long toil, Rangana Herath decided to take matters into his own hands or, more accurately, hand. The Sri Lanka spinner took one of the catches of the season – adding to an already long list – to be rid of Mike Hussey in the final session at the MCG yesterday. When Hussey hoisted part-time spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan high over wide mid-on, most spectators assumed Herath was shuffling across to retrieve the ball from the perimeter gutter. Even as the Sri Lankan dived it seemed a forlorn hope. The 40,000-strong crowd was hushed as he went to ground – to raise a left hand clutching the ball, albeit some distance from the centre of the palm.
The catch was uncannily similar to the one Herath took at the Gabba in the first one-day final in March and follows screamers by Nathan Lyon, Alviro Petersen, Mitchell Johnson and Mahela Jayawardene so far this summer. The quibblers might say Herath misjudged the flight both times, but they would be well-advised to remember lightning does not strike twice.
Players bang on about being the best player they can, about momentum-seizing moments, and about being content to fulfil their role in the team. But nothing can top the king of cricket cliches — catches win matches. The gaping chasm between these teams after two days’ play is down to held and dropped catches.
The cliche first came a’calling on day one when Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews were setting about another rescue mission. Sri Lanka was 4-99 when Peter Siddle tailed a full ball away from Mathews, who swung hard only to edge to Hussey at second slip. The ball flew so fast and high that Mathews in an instant must have marked it down for a boundary. He had not reckoned on Hussey’s left claw.
Then Sangakkara’s lone hand was ended by a catch any self-respecting keeper would rightly leave for fine leg. Instead, Matthew Wade sprinted 30m then dived to take one of the catches of the summer. Another one.
Thus two moments of brilliance ended any chance of the tourists posting a half-decent total.
Compare and contrast with Sri Lanka’s turn in the field. First Michael Clarke was missed at short mid-on by Dilshan when the Australia captain was five. He made 106. Then Shane Watson was missed by Sangakkara when he, too, was five. He made 83. It was a hard chance made harder by the fact the first slip was posted far too wide, meaning the stand-in keeper had to dive or stand back and watch it streak to the third-man rope.
The unfortunate keeper, who was pressed into service when Johnson busted Prasanna Jayawardene’s thumb on the first day, then missed a very tough stumping when the ball somehow slipped between Clarke’s dancing feet.
The even more unfortunate Herath despaired again when in the same over Watson was dropped by Jayawardene at slip. It was a sharp chance, but again the skipper’s placement was questionable, as he appeared to be standing too close to the batsman.
Jayawardene tossed the ball to Dilshan, who found Clarke’s edge only for the ball to york the Sri Lankan skipper’s boot at slip. Clarke next edged the very, very unfortunate Herath, only for the ball to fly harmlessly between keeper and slip for another boundary. Hussey arrived at the crease and survived a half-chance when an edge thudded into Sangakkara’s pad.
None of the half dozen chances was easy but the Sri Lankans could ill afford any misses, especially as they were a bowler down after Chanaka Welegedara limped off the field with a hamstring injury early in the day.
And to be fair, all of the Australian wickets bar Phil Hughes’s run-out were caught, including a brilliant effort by Jayawardene in taking a searing top edge from Ed Cowan at second slip on the first evening. The skipper ended yesterday taking a sharp two-handed catch at second slip to see off a stubborn Peter Siddle. But by then, as they say, the horse had bolted.