Hazlewood, who took 3 for 21 to play a major role in rounding up the hosts for 117 – Sri Lanka’s second-lowest total against Australia at home – in Pallekele, took advantage of some swing and seam with the new ball that he may not find in Galle or Colombo. However, the memories of this day, when numerous Sri Lankan batsmen looked out of their depth against Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and the spin twins of Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, may now play in favour of Steven Smith’s team.
“Anything you can get on the opposition is crucial,” Hazlewood, whose three wickets included that of Dinesh Chandimal, said. “If you can get it straight up on the first morning of a Test series, and get on top of a few of their top-order batters, it does open up some scars, hopefully, for the back end of the tour on some not-so-friendly wickets for us quicks.
“We don’t know too much about these guys, we haven’t played them a lot, especially our bowlers, so we’ve worked out a few little things here and there in that innings, and we’ll look to keep on top of them with those plans throughout the whole series.”
This was, arguably, a fortuitous toss for Smith to lose, as it had his opposite number Angelo Mathews electing to bat at a ground where there has always been a modicum of help for fast men. Several members of the touring party who were here for the Test team’s last visit, in 2011, including Nathan Lyon and Usman Khawaja, had spoken of some possible early assistance, and Hazlewood found it.
“A few of the guys who were here on the last series mentioned that if the quicks are going to get anything out of it, it’s going to be this Test, especially with the new ball,” Hazlewood said. “We made the most of that, and hopefully, we do again in the second innings. I was happy to bowl turning up today, it was a good toss to lose, see how that wicket was going to play. I thought if we bowled well, which we did, we’d get a few wickets early.
“It is [going to get harder], hopefully, we enjoyed that as much as we could. The next two wickets are probably going to suit the spinners and then Colombo could be quite flat, so it’s going to be hard work, but we’ve trained on some flat wickets in Colombo when we got here and tried a few different things here and there, so we’re as prepared as we can be. We may have to work on a few other things, and I think reverse swing will be a huge factor as well.”
More than once, the Australians raised their eyebrows at how the pitch played on day one, with several deliveries shooting through low and variation in spin suggesting the pitch will only get harder to bat on. Smith had said before the match that one of his goals was for the team to only have to bat once, and by rolling the Sri Lankans so cheaply, they have a chance of doing so.
“I thought we were quite patient, and just bowled the usual great lines and lengths,” Hazlewood said. “Mitch Starc was probably not at his best, but still very lethal, no matter when he bowls, and I think the spinners bowled beautifully on that wicket, it did offer them a bit of up-and-down bounce.
“It swung a little bit more in our second spells than the first. I think it’s just that hardness, a couple balls nipped here and there, the wicket was a little bit tacky, spikes were going in quite easily, and then, with the spin, I don’t think it spun too much. It was just inconsistent, and that did the damage.
“A couple did shoot through for a day-one wicket, so that’ll be interesting the longer the game goes. The spinners are going to come into it a lot more, and they’ve got some quality spinners, so first-innings runs are going to be crucial for us.” (Courtesy Cricinfo)