ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 4, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 23

TOUGH! That’s why we are here

With only a few days to go for the first test in Brisbane and with a satisfactory outing against the Cricket Australia Chairman’s XI last week, our preparations are now in full gear as we play a full strength Queensland side at the Allan Border Field in Brisbane.

We arrived here on Tuesday after a short two hour flight from Adelaide where the first tour game allowed us to iron out a few outstanding issues. Several batsmen rediscovered good touch with Marvan, Van Dort and Mahela scoring fifties. Then there was Sanath who scored a typical run-a-ball 154 leaving us in no doubt that he means business.

Even if Sanga played, Prasanna would have kept wickets in the first Test. But, now his batting has come in as an additional bonus to the team.

Murali also bowled for the first time on tour at Adelaide. While no one barracked him with calls of ‘no-ball’, he was able to send down 44 overs without any distress, taking four wickets, a sure sign that his biceps injury has healed well.

On the minus side though, Sanga picked up a hamstring niggle. It was more serious than what it initially appeared to be and is what is called a ‘grade 2 minus’ injury. It will definitely keep him out of the first test but he should be available for the Hobart game.

In Brisbane, we are delighted to train at the Allan Border Field, because the facilities here are excellent. Six practice nets, three bowling machines, a gymnasium and ice bath facilities together make up this superb state of the art centre. In terms of preparation for a test match, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Against Queensland, our top order had an off day, finding it difficult to deal with the sponge bounce of the wicket with some deliveries kicking up while others kept low. We expect a more even paced track at the Gabba for the test match.

Only Marvan was able to negotiate the difficult conditions initially but we were dealing with a top notch pace attack that comprised of Mitchell Johnson, Andy Bichel, Michael Kasprowicz and Ashley Noffke although it was the lesser known Noffke who did most of the damage.

Marvan’s innings on Friday, together with Sanath’s blistering knock in the Adelaide game should seal the openers’ berths for the first test. With Sanga on the injured list, Michael could most probably find himself batting at number three.

What was reassuring though was the performance of our lower order batsmen who took the score from 81 for 6 to 210 for 9. Prasanna Jayawardena’s unbeaten fifty would give him enormous confidence going into the test. He would have played as the keeper even if Sanga was fit but now his batting form would definitely be a bonus.

We decided to try and make the most of the conditions and get some early wickets and we managed to do just that, restricting the Queensland top order to 60 for 4. Lasith and Maha (Farveez Maharoof) shared the wickets.

When Lasith was bowling there were a few ‘no-ball’ calls against him from the crowd. Obviously it was an attempt to disturb his rhythm and upset the team as well and this may be what we could expect from the Brisbane crowd when the test begins, especially with Murali also playing. We are of course prepared for that and even more determined as a result.

Overall, preparations for the test are going well, with the exception of the injury to Sanga. I too had a scare when I hit my head against the shower and suffered a gash on my head but it is nothing serious. The warm weather in Brisbane also suits us fine, whereas at Adelaide it was quite cold and had us constantly reaching for the jumpers.

Our trainer, Jade Roberts is a hard task master to please and he is putting the boys through their paces. We have two training sessions daily ending with the customary ice baths. The aim is to have everyone at their peak at test match time and I feel the plan is progressing well.

What we would be looking for would be for two batsmen from the top order to carry on and play big innings that would set the platform for a good score. From a batsman’s perspective, it is not easy to quickly adjust to the different conditions, but now most of the top order has got good scores under their belts.

Depending on the ground conditions at the Gabba, we may go in with four fast bowlers and Murali but that would mean we would be playing one batsman short. It will be a difficult decision for the tour selectors.

As a team, we have gelled very well. Off the field, we have been together most of the time and dinner has become a team event. The camaraderie and team spirit is very high with everyone wanting to contribute their utmost. It will be a tough test at the Gbba, but then that is what we are here for.

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