Australia’s B-side produces A-class performance against Sri Lanka

Peter Lalor, in the Weekend Australian, 12/13 January 2013

351945-clint-mckay Pic from Getty Images

BY George, I think they’ve got it. For an alleged B team Australia put on an A-plus performance at the MCG last night to hammer Sri Lanka by 107 runs in the opening one-day international of the year. For a format that was supposedly on the nose, this was a one-day game that came up smelling like roses as the home side won in a canter. It was a shame only 27,000 showed up, for this was a match that provided everything but a contest.

Phil Hughes hit a historic century on ODI debut — the first ever by an Australian. Then there was a possibly career-defining innings by stand-in skipper George Bailey (89), and a scintillating innings from David Hussey (60 not out). Clint McKay took 4/33 and is on a hat-trick next match.

Sri Lanka’s batsman did well, too. Tillakaratne Dilshan (51) and Dinesh Chandimal (73) both knocked off half centuries you would pay to see. And the fielding was magnificent. There were four run-outs for the night, including a direct hit from Usman Khawaja – who had been on notice for his sluggish work around the ground in past lives – and two crackling run-outs from two deliveries by Glenn Maxwell.

Then old man Brad Haddin underlined the reason he was still worthy of a recall by snapping up a classic catch that might even have gone wide of first slip if he had not dived wide.

In the end, Australia won easily, Sri Lanka falling for 198 in the 40th over chasing 305. Afterthought opener Hughes’s 112 from 129 balls was just the eighth ever by a batsman on debut in a limited overs international and earned him the man of the match award. “To get three figures on debut is a great feeling and one I’ll never forget,” Hughes said.

His captain Bailey was, if possible, even more impressive. At what was billed as Australia’s Biggest Dress-Up Party, the acting captain came disguised as Mr Cricket II. “He went a run a ball and he really took pressure off me. He’s a class act,” Hughes said about his partner, who actually scored 89 runs from 79 deliveries. If Bailey can continue to plunder runs in all parts of the ground and with such elegant creativity, this side has found a man around which it can build a fine team.

Together, the pair compiled 140 runs and built a platform that allowed Hussey to amass a healthy post-300 score — not a bad effort for a side missing Michael Clarke, David Warner, Matthew Wade and the original Mr Cricket.

David Hussey had expressed doubts he could bring an innings home with the same panache as brother Michael, but his helter-skelter 60 not out from just 34 balls eased those fears. Hughes’s dismissal had sparked a minor collapse, but Hussey and Haddin (10no) put on a blistering 57 for the last wicket on a pitch that was a batsman’s delight.

Australia fielded three men on debut at the top of the order, but only Hughes made the most of the opportunity invested in him. Aaron Finch was looking comfortable until Ajantha Mendis was brought on in the 11th over. The spinner mystified the Victorian with one that went one way and then one that didn’t go as far and he was caught behind on 16.

Finch and Hughes scored a half century for the opening stand, but Finch would take little comfort from that. Back in Australian colours for the first time since being dropped last summer, Khawaja (3) came in at first drop but was not there for long. An aborted attempt at a quick single saw him scramble back to his crease. The bat was well in, but in diving the front end of the blade lifted and he was out.

Sri Lanka travelled well until it lost three wickets in succession to run-outs.


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