After the emotion of Ricky’s farewell and the epic series against South Africa we convened in Hobart for the first Vodafone Test against Sri Lanka and were greeted by warm, summery conditions.
Any Hobartian will tell you that temperatures in the high 20s in Hobart in December are no guarantee so the conditions were very well received!
Sri Lanka offers so many differences to South Africa but is also a very good cricket team and we know we must again be at our best.
We had a new-look top six with Phil Hughes back in the team for Ponting and Shane Watson moving to number four.
Phil deserved his recall as he had gone away and worked extremely hard on his technique and made a tough decision to move to South Australia.
Phil is also currently the highest run-scorer in Bupa Sheffield Shield cricket this summer, firmly placing him in the sights of selectors.
We prepared very well and set our batsmen in particular some very important KPIs. The players were involved in setting these goals which is so important because then they own these goals and are ultimately accountable for their own standards.
The Test was a very good one, coming right down to the wire on the final day and played on a good Test match pitch. The essence of playing on a pitch that deteriorates is that you have to make sure that you get a good first innings score.
If you are able to do, that like we did, then you have your opposition playing under pressure for most of the game.
Test cricket is all about absorbing and applying pressure – obviously the team that can apply pressure for the longest normally wins.
The really pleasing thing in terms of our batting was the intent that we batted with. We always talk about a mindset of how we are going to score instead of how we are not going to get out.
It was very pleasing to see each of our top three get half centuries and reach the KPIs set for them as top three batsmen. Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey also continued the great form they’re already showed this summer.
Michael and Mike have been prolific and provide so much stability and experience at number five and six in our order.
Our bowlers toiled hard on the pitch and bowled extremely well as a unit, building pressure consistently – it was such a disappointment to lose another in this Test, as Ben Hilfenhaus was really just starting to get going and his loss put enormous pressure on the other bowlers.
It’s been clearly noted in the media that we have quite a few injured bowlers at the moment, certainly more than we would like.
We are working hard to get to the bottom of why we run into patches like this where we lose a few at one time, but it’s a work in progress.
We know we must improve in this area and continue to look at ways of improving our management of bowlers.
On the plus side, these vacancies have created some great opportunities.
Mitchell Johnson is back again after bowling beautifully in Perth and was unlucky to miss out in Hobart.
Mitch Starc is a regular in the starting XI and Peter Siddle has really stepped up as the leader of our attack.
The loss of Hilfenhaus has also meant that Jackson Bird gets an opportunity around the Australian Test squad. He is the leading wicket-taker in Shield cricket and has been Tasmania’s spearhead to success over the last couple of seasons.
Michael Clarke’s slight hamstring injury means we also have Usman Khawaja back in the squad as cover for Michael.
Usman has been putting consistent runs on the board for his new state team, Queensland, putting his hand up in front of selectors.
He has spent the last couple of days in Brisbane at the COE working closely with batting coach Stuart Law and other staff to make those subtle adjustments back to red-ball cricket.
Michael will receive intensive treatment from our physio Alex Kountouris over the next few days and we’re hopeful he’ll be right to go come Boxing Day, but we know if he doesn’t get up that we have Usman there and ready to go.
Despite those couple of injury setbacks in the last Test, our bowlers pressed really hard on that final day in Hobart and reward for their effort came in the last 15 minutes of the day when Mitch Starc collected his second five-for in as many Tests to get us over the line.
It was a great reward for a hard five days and it was a nice feeling to seal the deal.
We now move on to the best part of our summer. The Vodafone Boxing Day Test and Sydney New Year’s Test are great occasions. It is also such a great time family-wise as they travel with you, a very rare luxury for us.
Merry Christmas to all and hopefully we put a Test win in your Christmas stocking.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia