Earlier that same day, Khawaja had been absent for 11 years, played by Perera of course, and by a live of course – the first punchline in a series that took its comedy from Australia by failing to face balls that didn’t actually spin.
Turns out he can.
Khawaja was not a clear round. Unless you have supernatural skills, there are no such rounds in terrains like this. He was beaten, several times. Late on the first day, when he was in his thirties, he went down the track and missed a ball that popped into the keeper’s helmet – a tough miss stumping, but a missed stumping nonetheless.
And yet the sweeps kept coming, two big efforts reaping the boundaries, the delicate paddles winning runs behind the square. Reverse sweeps were also on display, with at least one of its four legs coming from this shot. Waltz down the track and pass it halfway. Stay back, read it early, cut past the point. In defense, he pledged to cover balls that might hit the stumps. And when the clinging balls passed by his side, he shook them off. Bullets that don’t hit anything can’t take you out. He found a way to survive. And he found ways to score.
When he stayed in the crease, he made sure he parked his big front pad, leaps and bounds, along the track, so the balls that were heading for the stumps would hit him outside from the line, and the balls that hit it in line, were probably going to spin too far to threaten the stumps. It was not an available strategy for a hitter of Khawaja’s size. It was Green finding his own ways to survive; his own ways of scoring.
“The way we play the game and talk about the game has changed a lot since I started playing for the Australian cricket team,” Khawaja said at the end of day two. “We’ve learned from our mistakes, and the guys are all confident in their plans and able to adapt to different situations, and that’s different to how we do it in Australia.
“Guys like Carey come in and sweep. Even me growing up in Australia, one in two coaches would tell me not to sweep. But it’s a very natural shot, and Carey exploits it as much as anyone.”
This was all helped by an inexperienced spin attack from Sri Lanka, which was too easy to hit, unable to deliver a single maiden between them (dressmaker Asitha Fernando threw the only maiden sleeves), largely because they often take the wrong line.
But after looking like they were more likely to vomit on this Galle ground than play good innings on it the last time they were here, Australia have gotten some serious skills on these surfaces. Commit to a batting plan. Don’t worry about bullets getting the better of you. Find your own way to score. All of this saw them take control of a tough test on Thursday.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in Sri Lanka. @afidelf