Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart December 13, 2012

Jayawardene wants batsmen to step up


Sri Lanka's XI for the first Test in Hobart features the two major components of a team at different ends of the experience spectrum. The top five has an opener playing his second match, but the other four men have 409 Tests to their name, and have hit 89 hundreds between them. None of the pace bowlers, meanwhile, has yet played 20 Tests or taken 50 wickets. On the eve of the first Test in Hobart, Mahela Jayawardene backed his bowlers in the face of staunch criticism, but maintained it was his batsmen who would need to deliver a maiden win on Australian soil.

Former Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg has been the most combative critic of Sri Lanka's bowlers, declaring the visiting fast men comprise the "worst new-ball attack that has landed on our shores ever". Others have been less caustic in their appraisal of Sri Lanka's bowlers, but have also been skeptical of the visitors' chances of taking 20 wickets in a Test, despite having one of 2012's top wicket-takers in their ranks in Rangana Herath.

"To be honest I don't know in which capacity he has said that," Jayawardene said. "Teams have to start somewhere. We have lost some fast bowlers in the past and some due to injuries.

"This is an attack that is different. We probably don't have the pace which you think which is required to win Test matches in Australia but we've got guys who will bowl good lines and lengths and create opportunities. If we keep to that I think we stand a good chance. We'll see. We've got three Test matches to play. Once we finish that, I'll have a chat to Rodney Hogg."

Jayawardene challenged his batsmen to rebound from a poor series against New Zealand, in which none of them made triple-figures, and only three men went past 50. Encouraging signs of form emerged from Sri Lanka's tour match in Canberra, with Tillakaratne Dilshan making a ton and Kumar Sangakkara notching up a fifty, after having had his worst series ever against New Zealand.

"We'll bank on our experience with our batting to win a Test match. The important thing is to put runs on the board and give our bowlers a chance to get 20 wickets. If we achieve that, I think we have a pretty good chance. Looking at the wicket, both teams will have a challenge on their hands because we don't know how the wicket is going to play. Depending on that, we need to adjust."

Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne are two men who arrived in Australia in some form, and Jayawardene also put faith in them to play a role in the first Test. Mathews' 210 runs was by far Sri Lanka's highest returns from a single batsman in the series, eclipsing the efforts of Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Dilshan combined, while Karunaratne's run-a-ball 60 in Galle saw him earn a place in the squad to Australia. Jayawardene confirmed Karunaratne's place in the XI, with him having also made enough runs in the tour match to displace Tharanga Paranavitana.

"Angelo has improved a lot over the years. Every time he's been challenged he's come out of those challenges very well. Definitely at No.6 6, he has given us that little bit extra of what we've been looking for: an aggressive player who can score quickly and change a game for us. With the ball he's contributed as well. Yes he is going to play a big role in these Test matches."

Jayawardene also marked Phil Hughes out as a possible soft target for Sri Lanka's bowlers, as Hughes attempts to embed himself in the Australian side after a year out of the team. Hughes' last Test had also been at Bellerive Oval, where he completed a quartet of near-identical caught-behinds off Chris Martin.

"We've spoken to a few people and we've seen a lot of footage of Hughes lately as well. We know where his strengths are now and what he's trying to do. If we keep bowling where we want him to be playing at consistently, we probably can get him to make a few mistakes."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Priyashrav on December 14, 2012, 6:23 GMT

    @Kelum Skunkman Pietersen Its quite sad that you are making false statements about Mahela's stats and trying to pass them off as genuine saying "according to Statsguru"! According to Statsguru,Mahela averages 61.12@ Home,40.11@ Away @ 12.87@ Neutral tests matches! Even your stats about Clarke are false because Clarke averags 40-something in away tests! Why did you feel the need to make up false stats?

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2012, 22:22 GMT

    @chilled_avenger Which Mahela stats did u check? According to Statsguru he averages 52.53 @home, 50.39 away and 40.87 @nuetral. Similarly Michael Clarke averages 57,54 and 52 And that only largely to the last 2 years where he averages 66 & 58, also batting or should I say hiding at number 5. At no 4 where Mahela's played over 100 tests Clark only averages 21 in 17 tests.

    We can keep arguing over this but statistics are like mini skirts, they are good to look at but hide the important bits. Mahela is a big game player and most of his big scores have come when Sri Lanka needed them the most. He has been a great servant to SL cricket and will be respected not only as a great player but also as a great personality outside of cricket.

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2012, 22:01 GMT

    @Michael Prest: couldn't have said it better myself.

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    Seriously who is Rodney Hogg?

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2012, 15:32 GMT

    well said Mahela, our batsman needs to socre runs and give bowlers a chance to put pressure, specially Herath can do damage specially in the last 2 days of the test. we have the number 2 ranked bowler in the world. and by the way who is Rodney Hogg?

  • Parthiban on December 13, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    Usually Mahela tells his batters to step up after the series is lost. I see he has decided to be proactive this time around. Not that the result is in any doubt.

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    Who is Rodney Hogg? There would be a whole generation of cricket fans who will ask this question.....not just overseas fans but young Australians. Relevancy deprived nonentities pop their heads up when visitors tour and then promptly disappear into their nondescript/anonymous lives thereafter. Sad really.

  • Prasad on December 13, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    Despite the predicting green pitch to start the TEST series in Hobart, i really don't understand the reason for the worry of Lankans and the big confidence of Australians. If you take the following line up for Australia to begin the post-Ponting era, i undoubtedly say that they are ordinary batsmen in TEST level except Clarke and Hussey, Line up =Ed Cowan,David Warner,Phillip Hughes,Shane Watson,Michael Clarke,Michael Hussey,Matthew Wade (wk),Peter Siddle,Mitchell Starc,Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon. Even if you take Australia's bowling attack, its simply ordinary with no big marks in international level. Starc will be quicker and Lyon won't get any assistance as he was given in Galle slow pitch last year against SL.Other than them,Sri Lanka have played well against others before. If Lankan pacemen can lead the attack with little things like trapping batsmen by movement, change of pace and particularly along with teasing slow balls by Herath to get LBWs, SL will control the series.

  • Vihanga on December 13, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    @chilled_avenger- I m sure he's a better batter than

  • Vihanga on December 13, 2012, 10:06 GMT

    Good luck SL. Looking forward to a good contest seeing as you've FINALLY dropped the worthless Paranavitana.

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