x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Clarke hails victory on tough pitch

The skipper credits their 125-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first of three Tests, at Galle, to the toss and their competitive first innings total.

Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, was delighted to see his side get over the line against Sri Lanka on what was one of the toughest Test wickets he had experienced.

Ryan Harris, the medium pacer, took five wickets to dismiss Sri Lanka for 253 on Saturday as Australia wrapped up a 125-run win in the first Test in Galle, despite Mahela Jayawardene scoring 105.

The damage was done in the first innings, though, when Australia battled to 273 on the back of Mike Hussey's 95, then dismissed their hosts for just 105.

Clarke, after his first Test since assuming the captaincy, said: "I'm really stoked at the way we went about our work over the four days. I think we played really well on a pretty tough wicket.

"I think if you speak to all the batters, that's definitely one of the toughest wickets I've had to bat on in a Test match - and that's on day one. Day one felt like day five of a Test match. To scratch out 270-odd in the first innings - they were crucial runs.

"We were pretty happy with that. Then to bowl the way we did in the first innings set the game up."

Clarke was grateful to have won the toss on a pitch that turned alarmingly even on the first day.

Asked if the pitch was up to standard, he added: "I hate to see a Test match decided by the toss.

"No doubt it was prepared for spin bowling, but it might have backfired."

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, concurred the first innings had been crucial.

"The main cause for this defeat is our poor batting on the second day," Dilshan said. "Even on a bad pitch like this we can't get out for 100 playing seven batsmen.

"I feel if we had got to even 200-225 in the first innings, we would have had a good, tight match.

"We expected the pitch to turn, but not so much from the first day. But Test cricket is not easy. It's just one of the challenges of Test cricket."

Dilshan, however, refused to consider altering his attacking style of play in the five-day game.

"I've batted aggressively over the last three or four years and I want to play my shots. I play my natural game," Dilshan, who had scores of four and 12, said.

Sri Lanka resumed the fourth day on 120 for five and the overnight batsmen carried on with ease, negotiating the morning session without conceding a wicket. Jayawardene's century came after lunch, putting him level with Don Bradman in the list of most career centuries at No 10. But the Australian great took just 52 matches for 29 hundreds, while Jayawardene needed 120 matches.

Jayawardene's hundred was also the first century scored in the fourth innings by any player at Galle, which traditionally favours the bowlers in the last days of a Test.

Harris ended the resistance six overs after taking the second new ball when he bowled Jayawardene off the inside edge, leaving Sri Lanka's tail exposed. Suraj Randiv, the tailender, could not keep down a riser from Johnson as he edged the ball to Clarke at second slip.

Mathews, the all-rounder, who was on 95 and fast running out of batting partners, tried to hit Watson and was bowled. A Test century again eluded the batsman, who was run out for 99 in a match against India.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia confirmed after the game that David Warner would join up with the squad ahead of the second Test, with Ricky Ponting, the former captain, returning home to be at the birth of his second child.

The second Test will be played in Pallekele near hill capital Kandy next Thursday.