The Aussie skipper says the team is treating the Black Caps, who are on a 33-month unbeaten Test run, as any other series.
Everything that could have unravelled for the Australians during their disastrous tour of Sri Lanka, did.
Nothing illustrated the devastation of the Australians’ effort throughout their crushing series defeat better than the aftermath of the second Test loss in Galle. Steve Smith’s side were obliterated. For too long, the Australians have refused to tackle their weakness against the turning ball, or more specifically: the ball that does not spin.
Usman Khawaja was picture perfect in misreading a ball he thought would sizzle away from him. Yet Sri Lankan off-spinner Diluran Perera knew better, treating his counterpart with the straight on delivery, to Khawaja’s misfortune.
As Geoff Lemon noted, such acts were even mirrored by Australia’s best player of spin, captain Steve Smith, to Rangana Herath. Smith had studiously anticipated a turning delivery. Another costly misreading and inevitable dismissal.
As Smith said weakly afterwards, “we haven’t been good enough with it and we have to find ways to cover that ball that doesn’t spin.”
However, any criticism of Australia’s performance throughout the three-Test series should also make note of what was a memorably striking and rich effort from the home side.
Kaushal Silva batted with grit in the final Test in Colombo, ending any chance of an Australian revival. A century followed meagre returns in his previous five innings, where he scored just 18 runs, capping off a brilliant series from a new-look Sri Lankan batting line-up.
Then, the Australians’ catastrophe was repeated in the run chase in the third Test, with Australia falling for 160 in the final innings after making it to 100 for the loss of one wicket. Soon the riot ensued, with familiar torments inflicted by Herath.
Much like visiting members of an imperial outfit convinced of victory in advance, the Australian team and its management conducted themselves less with aplomb than irritable demand. “They,” shot Colombo’s curator Michael de Zoysa, “have complained about the pitch preparation, the state of the pitch, the pitches prepared for practice and on which side of the ground they should conduct their warm-up sessions.”
They might as well have behaved as emperors. Australian sides are spared nothing, but even money can only talk a certain language. Performances cannot be bought entirely, which is why Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland is now left searching for answers for why the Test side failed in Sri Lanka.
The respective boards have also been sniping at each other. Sri Lankan Cricket lodged a complaint with Cricket Australia during the first Test after finding out that the great Muttiah Muralidaran had joined the Australian squad for a short stint as a consultant prior to the series. Anyone with a sense of humour would have appreciated that such efforts have not prospered.
For all the impenetrable gloom, the Australian side could still sport Herculean efforts. Mitchell Starc surpassed Richard Hadlee’s haul of 23 wickets during the New Zealand tour of Sri Lanka in 1984. His performance demonstrated that pace could still strive on the magical turning pitch.
A final sense of elation should be felt for the home side. Having endured a 33-year drought in series against Australia, this win was a true downpour, and a refreshing one for world cricket. For the visitors, it concludes a disastrous cricketing stretch in Asia that commenced with India’s 4-0 home triumph in 2013.