Australia’s first match against Sri Lanka was Australia’s first Twenty20 game since the World T20. It means it was the start of a new chapter.
That chapter could end in success or failure. It could end in David Warner and Glenn Maxwell out of the team, or as the best Twenty20 players in the world.
To make predictions about the future is no simple matter. To do so is fraught with danger.
But here’s how Australia’s new chapter started.
Bang, bang, BANG!
The first raised eyebrow came when Glenn Maxwell partnered Dave Warner. Maybe it was to start with a right-left hand combination, maybe it was to throw Maxwell straight into the action after his omission from the ODI squad, or maybe it was another reason entirely. But whatever the reasoning, the ploy worked.
In less than five overs, Warner and Maxwell had started the Australian innings in rapid mode with 57. At one stage in the partnership, 20 consecutive balls were scored from.
Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal recognised Dhananjaya de Silva’s birthday by not bowling him until after Powerplay overs, thus allowing him five men out on the boundary. As a birthday gift, that’s a bit like thoughtfully rescheduling a mate’s appointment with the tax office from the day of his wedding to the day after his wedding.
Dhananjaya returned the favour by bowling the first over in five that hadn’t gone for double digits.
But Maxwell wasn’t kept relatively quiet for long. His half-century was brought up with consecutive sixes against Kasun Rajitha, and perhaps to a faintly perceptible soundtrack of his critics, saying that his performance had proven that he had needed to be dropped from the team for his own good.
But then, it might not be likely they were watching at 12:13am on a Wednesday morning. Perhaps that faintly perceptible soundtrack was their snoring. Tough crowd.
Things looked grim for Sri Lanka when Usman Khawaja followed Maxwell’s lead and suited up. Sure, Khawaja wasn’t exactly following suit – Maxwell’s was diamond and gold studded compared to Khawaja’s relative business class suit – but it was enough to add to Sri Lanka’s growing worries.
Soon, Khawaja had passed his previous highest score of the tour. Actually I wrote that sentence well before he passed his previous highest score of 31 to see if the commentator’s curse would work for Sri Lanka, and when it didn’t, it was a sure sign that Sri Lanka were achieving a high proportion of their anti-goals.
By this stage, it was making Cameron White’s night in 2011 at Pallekele when he won the toss, elected to field, and saw Tillakaratne Dilshan score his only Twenty20century, look like a picnic at Mt Field National Park. It was a picnic equipped with Glen Grant and smoked salmon, as Australia passed 150 at the end of the thirteenth over.
Khawaja soon got out for 36, but it made three fifths of bugger all difference to the run rate, with 12 runs coming off the four balls immediately following his dismissal, the fourth of which was a six to the new batsman, Travis Head.
With the score reading 2-166 off 14 overs after that shot, the bowlers would have been forgiven for wanting less Head and more Beer, but with Michael Beer not in the team and scheduled to bat at five, no respite seemed likely for six more overs.
A good over now was one that went for 12, as the next over from Thisara Perera did, the damage exacerbated by poor fielding off the fifth ball that allowed an overthrow.
What happened on the ball Maxwell reached his hundred probably summed up the innings. He got the two runs he needed, and as Suranga Lakmal had been no-balled because his full toss was too high, he received a free hit straight after an adrenaline hit. By this stage I wasn’t sure who would have been more excited – him or Dan Liebke.
Normally I’d say Dan with the same speed that it takes most people to decide who’d win a 1500 metres freestyle between Grant Hackett and Eric Moussambani, but when Senanayake’s last over contained a four and three sixes, all from the bat of Maxwell, it gave me pause.
Sri Lanka could blame Maxwell for their bowling figures. But de Silva had no one to blame but himself when he dropped Head in the 17th over, and in keeping with the rest of the innings, Head rubbed salt into already gaping wound by hitting the next ball for four.
In the nineteenth, I finally got used to 15 runs constantly coming off an over. Head and Maxwell’s batting promoted freedom so much that David Leyonhjelm might have been left weeping in envy, if indeed he was watching or cares even slightly about cricket.
Head took over in the last two overs, ensuring that Australia recorded the highest ever T20 score by a team, but his control of the strike also meant Maxwell didn’t match Aaron Finch’s T20 record for the highest individual score by an Australian too.
I would love to be able to tell you more about the match, but it was 1:13am, Australia weren’t going to lose – OK I waited until Dilshan got out to make sure a repeat of Johannesburg wasn’t in any way possible – and I went to bed.
I had read the start of the first chapter. Consumption of the rest could wait for another day.