The smile on Australia’s face was swiftly wiped off during a humbling opening nine overs from Sri Lanka’s quicks in the second Test.
Australia entered the series decider in Canberra with some new-found confidence after crushing the tourists by an innings and 40 runs at the Gabba.
Early signs on Friday were good too after captain Tim Paine finally won a coin toss and sent his side in to bat first.
But 8.4 overs was all it took to crash Australia back down to earth after Marcus Harris (11), Usman Khawaja (0) and Marnus Labuschagne (6) were all caught between keeper and point.
The first two wickets in particular sent alarm bells ringing – Harris’ because it further exposed a technical flaw, and Khawaja’s because it sinks him deeper into his form slump.
Harris’ first six Tests have painted him as an aggressive opener of David Warner or Matthew Hayden’s ilk. But his execution against Sri Lanka hasn’t been close to their standard, after twice hitting up on loose balls straight to point.
Fox Cricket commentator Michael Vaughan said Harris needs to eliminate the loose shots outside off-stump swiftly as teams have already taken note of the weakness.
“You’ve seen it from Harris already. He’s only into his sixth game but teams are going to see this and dangle the carrot. He’s just itching to go at the ball,” the former England captain said in commentary.
“Test cricket is over five days you don’t have to come out the blocks.
“You’ve got to learn fast at this level because it exposes any mental or technical weakness.
“As an opening batsman particularly you are there to set the tone. Setting the tone in Test match cricket is seeing off the bowler, seeing off the new ball, getting the Kookaburra ball to the 20-30th over mark.
“You know in Australia if the ball is going to do anything it’s going to do something for the first 20 then it just gets softer and flatter, and you cash in.
“The mindset from the Australians would be a real concern for Justin Langer.”
Although, Khawaja – who has scored more than 35 just once this Test season – wasn’t exempt from Vaughan’s criticism.
The 2005 Ashes winner added: “The first two dismissals, Harris and Khawaja, technically nowhere, mentally nowhere.”
Khawaja’s dismissal was similarly loose, with the left-hander attempting a drive with no footwork only to edge to second slip.
Speaking on SEN, Simon Katich raised concerns over the two dismissals given the conditions this year’s Ashes will be played in.
“You get tested on the front foot in England as the incentive is there (to pitch the ball up),” Katich said.
“The Duke ball swings all day, particularly on an overcast day like today.”
“There’s nothing wrong with this wicket. It’s been the discipline of the Sri Lankan bowlers and Australia has basically played into their hands.”
Kerry O’Keeffe also raised grave Ashes concerns on Fox Cricket, imploring the Australians to re-learn the power of the leave again in Test cricket.
“Australia is not going to cut it in the Ashes if Australia keeps playing at deliveries they should leave,” he said.
“Jimmy Anderson will be curling his tache (moustache) over there on what he is seeing.”
Published by Jacob Polychronis, 1st February 2019 on Foxsports.com.au