Steven Smith defends himself over 'ugly' dismissal in the first innings
Australian skipper Steven Smith expressed huge disappointment at the manner in which his side fell away from a position of strength before eventually losing the first Test of the three-match series against hosts Sri Lanka by a margin of 106 runs at Kandy. Smith was particularly unhappy with the fact that Australia repeated the same mistakes that have resulted in them having a terrible record in subcontinent pitches.
After being bowled out for a paltry total of 117 in the first innings, Sri Lanka made a stirring comeback in the second innings led by Kusal Mendis’ outstanding knock of 176. Despite picking up an 86-run first innings lead, the visitors fell well short of the target of 268 with the spin duo of Herath and Lakshan Sandakan picking up 16 wickets between them.
"It is disappointing," Smith said. "I said before the game that we haven't played well in subcontinent conditions for quite a while now. It's something that under my captaincy I want to change. There were glimpses throughout this game that we've improved in some aspects but I think we just let ourselves down a lot as well.”
While sharing part of the blame for the loss, Smith defended himself over the manner of his dismissal in the first innings that eventually turned to a pivotal turning point in the Test match. Smith charged down the wicket to Rangana Herath’s first ball on Day two only to end up losing his wicket.
Smith claimed that the execution rather than shot selection was to blame for the dismissal.
"I generally play spinners quite aggressively. I've hit that ball for four or six several times throughout my career,” claimed the Australian skipper. “I got beaten on the inside of the bat. It's just summing it up and making sure I play with a straighter bat if I'm trying to go over the top. I know it looked ugly and it probably didn't look great. For me, it's about making sure I still have that intent to score."
While the Sri Lankan spinners ruled the roost on the Kandy surface which was expected to be the least helpful for the spinners, Smith admits that Australia will have to pull their act together to make a comeback in the series. He is, however, hopeful that his former academy mate Jon Holland, who has been called in as a replacement for the injured Steve o’Keefe, will make an equally big impact alongside Nathan Lyon.
"Galle is the biggest spinning place here in Sri Lanka, or so we've been told so it's going to play a big part again," Smith said. "Jon Holland is a class bowler, he's done pretty well in state cricket and having a left-arm orthodox bowler in these conditions is a must. He's accurate, he hits a good area and hopefully we can see some of the same as what we saw from Steve and Rangana, with some balls spinning and some balls skidding.”
“It's incredibly hard to play against and I'm looking forward to him getting here and having a couple of days' preparation with us. He and I went to the academy together so we know each other reasonably well and I'm sure he'll fit in well around this group.
“There's always challenges when you're playing international cricket, especially away from home. He's going to have to get a game plan and the speeds that he needs to bowl together pretty quickly. We'll be working with him to make sure he gets that in and I'm really excited for him to join us," he added.