Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Chaminda Vaas shows his skill

CRICKET INTERNATIONAL Australia was bowled out for 207 shortly after tea, after being sent in to bat. Sri Lanka was 43-3 in reply


Australian batsman Matthew Hayden plays a shot towards the boundary during the first test against Sri Lanka in Darwin, yesterday.


Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas took 5-31 yesterday and moved into the upper echelon of test bowlers as 13 wickets fell on a wild first day of the first cricket test against Australia.

Australia was bowled out for 207 shortly after tea, after being sent in to bat. Sri Lanka was 43-3 in reply at stumps.

It has been more than a decade since Australia was bowled out with such a low total when batting first in a home test match. That came against the West Indies in 1992-93 at the WACA in Perth when Australia could only manage 119.

The absence of world record wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan opened the door for Vaas, who moved to 251 test wickets -- passing Richie Benaud (248) and Michael Holding (249), and moved him into the top 25 wicket-takers of all-time.

"I'm not trying to do anything special," Vaas said yesterday. "My game is to swing the ball and I try to keep the ball in the right spot. Today it was ideal conditions for fast bowlers as the ball was seaming around."

Australian vice-captain Darren Lehmann praised Vaas.

"He bowled beautifully all day, he swung it nicely, it was hard to get him away ... he contained us very well," Lehmann said.

Vaas said captain Marvan Atapattu's decision to bowl first was based on the pitch offering plenty of assistance to the pace bowlers. But early on the gamble appeared to have backfired as Matthew Hayden (37) and Justin Langer (30) added 72 for the first wicket.

On either side of the lunch break Australia lost 3-8 with Vaas claiming the wickets of Hayden and Matthew Elliott, who made one run after being rushed into the team to replace Ricky Ponting after the skipper chose to miss the match following a death in his family.

Australia had a middle-session revival as Lehmann (57) and Damien Martyn (47) added 97 for the fourth wicket. But Martyn's fall on the last ball before tea started a collapse of 7-30.

Lasith Malinga, 20, took two vital wickets on debut, trapping Lehmann leg before wicket. Three balls later he dismissed acting captain Adam Gilchrist, who was caught down the legside for a duck.

Vaas then cleaned up the tail for his eighth five-wicket haul in his 77th test.

While Vaas reached the landmark of 250 wickets, Australian fast bowlers Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie also reached personal milestones as Sri Lanka lost two quick wickets in its pursuit of a first-innings lead.

McGrath, making a return from a yearlong injury layoff, clean bowled Atapattu (4) to move alongside New Zealand's Richard Hadlee on 431 test wickets. He passed Hadlee and went to fifth on the all-time wicket-taker's list with an leg-before shout against Sanath Jayasuriya (8).

Gillespie reached 200 test wickets when he trapped Kumar Sangakkara (2) lbw. At stumps Mahela Jayawardene was not out on 12 and nightwatchman Nuwan Zoysa was on eight.

Lehmann said the Marrara Oval pitch wasn't quite up to test standard.

"They bowled quite well but the wicket's not ideal," Lehmann said.

"But then you can't have flat wickets all the time -- it just gives the batters more of a challenge and we didn't rise to the challenge well enough."

Lehmann said he'd never encountered a bowler like Malinga, who is short for a fast bowler and bowls with an almost sidearm action.

"He's so small and he's a real slinger, I've never come across someone like that before," said Lehmann. "It's hard to pick [the line of the ball], especially with the variable bounce. But he certainly lets them go -- he's got some pace."

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