Sri Lanka vs Australia 2016: Josh Hazelwood believes Sri Lanka's innings debacle will have long-lasting impact
Australian fast bowler Josh Hazelwood, who dismissed three Sri Lankan top-order batsmen, including the prized wicket of Dinesh Chandimal, expressed delight at the way the tour has kicked off for the visitors after Angelo Mathews decision to bat first on a surface which was expected to provide early assistance to the pace bowlers, backfired spectacularly, with the home side being dismissed for a paltry total of 117 in their first innings.
Speaking on the eve of the Test match, Australian skipper Steven Smith had spoken about the possibility of bowling first if he won the toss and though the luck of the coin didn't go his way, his Sri Lankan counterpart nevertheless opted to face the new ball and the Australian pacers made the early inroads before the spinners cleaned up the middle and lower order.
"A few of the guys who were here on the last series mentioned that if the quicks are going to get anything out of it, it's going to be this Test, especially with the new ball,” Hazelwood said, reflecting on the fact that the remaining two venues have little to offer for the fast bowlers.
"We made the most of that, and hopefully, we do again in the second innings. I was happy to bowl turning up today, it was a good toss to lose, see how that wicket was going to play. I thought if we bowled well, which we did, we'd get a few wickets early.”
Hazelwood is, however, hopeful that the embarrassment caused by the batting collapse will play on the home batsmen’s minds for the rest of the series thus making things a lot easier for the Australian bowling attack.
"Anything you can get on the opposition is crucial. If you can get it straight up on the first morning of a Test series, and get on top of a few of their top-order batters, it does open up some scars, hopefully, for the back end of the tour on some not-so-friendly wickets for us quicks,” he said.
"We don't know too much about these guys, we haven't played them a lot, especially our bowlers, so we've worked out a few little things here and there in that innings, and we'll look to keep on top of them with those plans throughout the whole series."
The 25-year-old said that he was prepared to toil it out in the remaining matches and believes reverse swing will come into play much more than at Kandy.
"It is [going to get harder], hopefully, we enjoyed that as much as we could. The next two wickets are probably going to suit the spinners and then Colombo could be quite flat, so it's going to be hard work, but we've trained on some flat wickets in Colombo when we got here and tried a few different things here and there, so we're as prepared as we can be.
“We may have to work on a few other things, and I think reverse swing will be a huge factor as well," he said.
Hazelwood also credited the spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steve o’Keefe, who shared five wickets between them and is certain that the spinners from both sides will get more help as the game progresses and is hopeful that the Australian batsmen can put the match beyond Sri Lanka’s reach by the end of the first innings itself.
"I thought we were quite patient, and just bowled the usual great lines and lengths," Hazlewood said. "Mitch Starc was probably not at his best, but still very lethal, no matter when he bowls, and I think the spinners bowled beautifully on that wicket, it did offer them a bit of up-and-down bounce.
"It swung a little bit more in our second spells than the first. I think it's just that hardness, a couple balls nipped here and there, the wicket was a little bit tacky, spikes were going in quite easily, and then, with the spin, I don't think it spun too much. It was just inconsistent, and that did the damage.
“A couple did shoot through for a day-one wicket, so that'll be interesting the longer the game goes. The spinners are going to come into it a lot more, and they've got some quality spinners, so first-innings runs are going to be crucial for us."