Bracken's lively spell

Nathan Bracken celebrates after taking a Lankan wicket.-AP

It was Bracken who walked away with the Man of the Match award for his five for 47. He deserved the award on a night of joy for the Aussies. S. Dinakar reports.

Much of cricket is about how a cricketer can adapt. How a player surmounts the challenges imposed by the conditions determines his ability. Nathan Bracken passed the test with flying colours under the lights at the SCG. He swung the new ball and bowled probing cutters at a reduced pace with an older ball in the middle overs.

The sluggish pitch at the SCG tested the pacemen.

It was a slow pitch with a hint of double bounce. Bracken realised he had to switch tactics. In Ricky Ponting he had an encouraging captain. ’Keeper Kumara Sangakkara stood up and Bracken strangulated him with his variation and precision.

The Lankans were beaten by a mile — by 128 runs. “We lacked character,” said a disappointed Mahela Jayawardene after the match. The skipper himself took an uncharacteristic swipe at a critical stage of the contest and came a cropper.

The Lankans, choked for runs by the Australian bowling and fielding, succumbed to the stress. A fighting Kumar Sangakkara was the lone exception.

The face-off between the World Cup winner and runner-up was one-sided. The surface suited the Sri Lankans but the Aussies came up trumps.

Brett Lee, fast and furious, fired out Sanath Jayasuriya. The Lankan lion had roared at the SCG in the past. Now, he walked back to the pavilion a quiet man.

Sangakkara waged a lone battle for Sri Lanka.-AP

Mitchell Johnson ended Sangakkara’s promising tenure. He angled a delivery into the left-hander and won a leg-before shout. He posed searching questions to the batsmen with his variety and skiddish pace.

Brad Hogg got the ball to turn and bounce. The left-arm Chinaman bowler was the best spinner in a match where the off-spinning genius, Muttiah Muralitharan, bowled his full quota of overs.

Hogg ripped the ball, got his deliveries to fizz off the surface. He’s probably the most under-rated ODI spinner.

The Aussies gave away little on the field. They hunted as a pack and Andrew Symonds’ flick from mid-on to run out Lasith Malinga — he grounded his bat then dropped his willow as the ball hit the stumps — threw light on the Aussie opportunism.

Under immense pressure, the younger Lankan batsmen resorted to desperate strokes. The consequence was disastrous.

“We have a side that can beat Australia. We need to show greater belief,” said Jayawardene. His batsmen were unable to string together partnerships — the heart of any innings.

The Aussies were full of belief. They hustled the opposition, made them sweat. Ponting captained impressively.

Earlier, Matthew Hayden’s return from injury gave the Aussie innings thrust and solidity in the beginning. Adam Gilchrist scored a half-century of construction than flair.

A pulled six off Malinga, however, brought back old memories. The SCG crowd roared in appreciation.

Michael Clarke nudged, pushed and ran brilliantly between the wickets for a match-winning unbeaten 77 (86b, 2x4, 1x6). The right-hander stepped down the track and struck Muralitharan over long off. Soon, he changed his ploy.

Clarke and innovative James Hopes accelerated the Aussie run-rate in the end overs.

Ponting once again failed with the willow but was a pleased man at the post-match press conference. “I realised Nathan (Bracken) would do a good job in the middle of the innings and that is why he only bowled his three up the top.

Mitchell Johnson bowled probably as well as he has ever bowled for Australia. Michael Clarke controlled our batting well and Gilly played slightly differently than what he normally does but he played according to the conditions.

“We had quite a few things to discuss in the team meeting, especially the way we batted today. It’s something that has kept happening to us the last six months,” he said.

Jayawardene said, “We are a very competitive side and when you make mistakes like this it does feel bad, it does hurt.” The Lankans had a team meeting immediately after the match where the skipper did not mince words.

Bracken spoke about working on variations. “The competition between me and Johnson is a healthy one. We help each other out as left-armers,” he said.

It was Bracken who walked away with the Man of the Match award for his five for 47. He deserved the award on a night of joy for the Aussies.

The scores

Sydney Cricket Ground, February 8. Australia won by 128 runs.

Australia: A. C. Gilchrist lbw b Kapugedera 61; M. L. Hayden c Jayawardene b Amerasinghe 42; R. T. Ponting c Jayawardene b Vaas 9; M. J. Clarke (not out) 77; A. Symonds c Kapugedera b Vaas 12; M. E. K. Hussey c Dilshan b Amerasinghe 10; J. R. Hopes c Dilshan b Malinga 34; B. Lee (not out) 0; Extras (lb 2, w 6) 8; Total (six wkts., in 50 overs) 253.

Fall of wickets: 1-65, 2-88, 3-139, 4-160, 5-190, 6-253.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-1-34-2; Malinga 10-0-55-1; Amerasinghe 10-0-66-2; Muralitharan 10-0-42-0; Kapugedera 10-0-54-1.

Sri Lanka: W. U. Tharanga c Gilchrist b Bracken 10; S. T. Jayasuriya b Lee 7; K. C. Sangakkara lbw b Bracken 42; M. Jayawardene c Gilchrist b Johnson 6; C. Silva c Gilchrist b Hogg 7; T. M. Dilshan c Lee b Bracken 14; C. K. Kapugedera c Hayden b Bracken 0; C. Vaas (run out) 18; S. L. Malinga (run out) 2; M. Muralitharan c Symonds b Bracken 11; I. Amerasinghe (not out) 0; Extras (lb 3, w 4, nb 1) 8; Total (31.3 overs) 125;

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-18, 3-57, 4-74, 5-81, 6-84, 7-93, 8-105, 9-114.

Australia bowling: Lee 7-1-34-1; Bracken 8.3-0-47-5; Johnson 5-3-9-1; Hopes 5-0-15-0; Hogg 6-1-17-1.