First the good news. Ricky Ponting looked in fine fettle yesterday and demonstrated that he remains hungry for runs and as fit as a fiddle. Mike Hussey, another old-timer, also looked sharp as he set about rescuing his team. In terms of application and skill, they stood apart. Australia needs to find young batsmen capable of stepping into their shoes.
Freed from the cares of captaincy and able to focus on his game, Ponting played a typically resourceful innings. He emerged at first wicket down - he has never been a fellow to duck a challenge. He walked to the crease in his businesslike way, took a look at the track, made his assessments and set about building his innings. Relying on wily guides and occasional breakouts, he moved serenely towards 50 and seemed destined for three figures.
Now the bad news. Apparently as set as dry concrete, the Tasmanian threw his wicket away with a shocker of a shot. Not since his younger days can Ponting have played such a loose stroke in this company. As he watched the ball drop gently into the hands of long-off, Ponting surely cursed himself.
To be fair it was also a crafty piece of bowling by Rangana Herath, a left-arm spinner capable of making the ball drop faster than the US dollar.
By the look of things, concentration is going to be a challenge for Ponting. No such fault could be detected in the other veteran of 100 campaigns. Instead Hussey was his customary self. He, too, could tell the young'uns a thing or two.
None of the rest quite rose to the occasion. Still, it's a bit early for gloom and doom. It's going to take more than a scratchy batting display on a crusty deck to spoil the summer. Spring remains the season of hope. Australia's batsmen might yet enjoy a productive term.
Although wickets kept falling, the batting really did not look that bad. Australia might have chosen the right batsmen, it's just that they did not score enough runs first time out of the stables.
Sometimes the scorecard does not tell the entire story. Apart from anything else, it takes little account of a track that had spent more time under canvas than a troop of scouts. Moreover, credit ought to be given to an attack that probed away like a dentist searching for cavities.
None of the batsmen looked out of sorts. Freshened by moisture, the pitch was tricky. A few deliveries popped, others kept low and some turned, so batsmen were obliged to remain watchful. Besides, the hosts fielded a varied attack containing enough lefties to alarm a shock jock and two capable right-handers.
Among the other willow-wielders, Phillip Hughes was under the closest scrutiny. He was also the victim of the most demanding delivery. Although his stay was short, it did not lack significance. Hughes has changed his game. Previously he tended to rush at the ball and play away from his body. Now he looked more compact, waiting for the delivery to reach him and trying to tuck it away.
Not that the left-hander was scared to attack. Twice he moved quickly forwards and stroked the ball through the covers. On this evidence, the remedial work might be effective. It took a corker to remove him, a delivery from Suranga Lakmal that jumped from a length.
Not much can be said about Shane Watson except that he seemed in solid form until he groped a teasing delivery and tickled it to the keeper. Before that he had driven several boundaries and pulled decisively.
Michael Clarke seemed fresh and feline. Prepared to use his feet against the tweakers, he clipped boundaries and did not seem unduly weighed down by his responsibilities. At his best he resembles an antelope with pads on. His game is effervescent or it is nothing. It's a long journey but he has made a good start.
Still, Clarke lost his wicket foolishly, pushing forwards at an arm-ball and being dispatched by the third umpire. He had been given a warning earlier and did not take heed of it. Not the least attraction of review system is that it forces batsmen to use their bats against spinners. Tweakers of yesteryear suffered agonies as umpires shook their heads solemnly whenever some dolt of a batsman thrust a pad at the ball.
Usman Khawaja did not linger, whereupon two seasoned campaigners set about repairing the damage. Once more it did not last.
No telling partnerships were formed. Wickets kept falling at inopportune moments. But, then, it was only the first outing on the first day of the first match.