The air gets wet in Brisbane during summertime. The smell of hops from the famous brewery in Milton can hang over the city making the atmosphere close and heavy. As many casual inhabitants have found out, the sunshine state can be a hard place to keep a clear head.
Perhaps this explains the curious decisions made by recent tourists after the coin toss at the Gabba. Five times visiting teams have called correctly and sent the Australians in. Every time, the captain has come to rue his decision which made Mahela Jayawardene’s option of bowling first in the Brisbane Test surprising to say the least. The last person who ignored history to this extent was forced to endure a rather nasty Russian winter before the inevitable defeat came.
The Sri Lankans seem destined for a similar fate. Only rain – a rarity in Brisbane in recent months – may save them. Of course, their cause was not helped by an injury to Kumar Sangakkara, their best player, and the inexplicable decision to not play bottle blonde Lasith Malinga. At least, it was inexplicable at the time. Marvin Atapattu has since shed light on the mystery by informing us that Sri Lankan team selection is handled by muppets.
Which I guess makes grumpy veteran Marvin either Statler or Waldorf, the two old blokes who constantly carped from the balcony. What the Sri Lankans really need is a Miss Piggy — her moxie is absent from a team that seems flat and are clearly disgruntled with administration. And I reckon she would have opted to bat first too.
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As for the new look Aussies, they have done well to take an inferior opponent to the brink of a heavy defeat. Jaques’ maiden Test ton was gritty — a rarity in the modern game. Mike Hussey continues to display none of the characteristics of a mere mortal, but even he was outshone by a sublime innings from Michael Clarke. Any batsman who can pull so effortlessly through mid wicket can play and Clarke, outside of his captain, is the team’s best natural talent.
The bowling attack, though, was where most interest lay. How would the team fare without the greatest two bowlers of the modern era? Fifteen wickets in two days suggests that they fared pretty well. Brett Lee has been fast and, for him, accurate. His new ball partner, Mitchell Johnson, also has pace and a left armer’s ability to take the ball across a right-handed batsman. He looks a bowler.
Stuart Clark and Macgill have contributed but there were moments during the fourth day when it seemed the bowling lacked the X factor provided by Warne and McGrath. Australia will undoubtedly miss these two and their almost freakish ability to just make something happen.
But on current evidence it will take a more cohesive unit than Sri Lanka to seriously test the Australians.