Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 December 4, 2012

Fast bowling a worry for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka have stacked their squad with five fast bowlers for the tour, but none with experience, partly due to inconsistency, but also because of long-term injuries

Fast bowling appears to be the largest chink in Sri Lanka's game as they prepare for their first three-match series in Australia in 17 seasons, with some bowlers having arrived fresh from rehabilitation and others with less-than-ideal form behind them.

Sri Lanka have stacked their squad with five fast bowlers for the tour, but the pace battery cannot boast one bowler of experience among them, partly due to inconsistency, but also because of long-term injuries. None of the five have played 20 Tests, while three of them have played ten or fewer. Bowlers have only been part of the team as long as their bodies have allowed, hampering ambitions of becoming established in the side.

This year has seen the pace stocks stretched particularly thin. Among the touring group, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welegedara and Shaminda Eranga have spent several months away through injury, while Suranga Lakmal has not played since March, and was not considered for this tour, having sustained an ankle injury. Allrounder Thisara Perera, who has had success with the ball in Australia in limited-overs internationals, was also hampered by a back injury, which has prevented him from bowling the long spells that Test cricket requires. 

"It's important that we have a settled attack, but in the last two or three years we've had a lot of injuries to the fast bowlers so they've been in and out of the Test team," Jayawardene said. "We would like to have a settled attack going forward - three or four guys who are always going to be there or thereabouts, which is very important. If we can get to that situation, they'll feel confident in what their roles are going to be as well, because they are going to be playing together as a unit.

"Unfortunately the injuries that have happened to some of our guys have been long-term injuries. Suranga is still struggling after his operation. Dhammika and Chanaka are coming back strongly. That gives us the opportunity to have them around, which is great." 

Compounding the injury woes for Sri Lanka's seam bowlers is the lack of competitive cricket for their returning bowlers, with Sri Lanka's domestic cricket having finished for the season in March. Welegedara has been Sri Lanka's leading pace bowler over the past 18 months, but despite being fit for the New Zealand series, he was not selected in the playing XI due to a lack of match practice.

"Chanaka's been fit now for three or four weeks. The reason we didn't play him was because he didn't have that bowling under his belt and the rhythm wasn't there. In the last two weeks he's bowled in between the matches and in the nets to get his rhythm back. He's looking good. He'll definitely be a contender in Australia. He's been the one who's been spearheading our attack and I'm looking forward to having him in the lineup."

Sri Lanka's fast bowlers also arrive in Australia having had a mediocre home series against New Zealand, and a poor second Test in particular. Eranga and Nuwan Kulasekara bowled creditably in the first Test in Galle, using swing-friendly conditions to take early wickets in each innings, but on a P Sara Oval track that offered less movement in the air and more bounce - both qualities associated with Australian conditions - their returns were less satisfactory. 

While New Zealand's opening bowlers reaped 21 wickets between them, Sri Lanka's new-ball pair managed only 12, as the attack relied on the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath for penetration. Herath finished with 20 wickets from the two-Test series.

"Rangana is always going to be a guy who can take that burden on, but it's important that the other guys put their hands up and perform," Jayawardene said. "In Australia the quick bowlers will have something to offer - it's not like playing in Sri Lankan conditions. I'm pretty confident the guys will rise to the occasion and do well. Hopefully Rangana will do well and make sure we have a solid attack."

Although Eranga had a poor second Test against New Zealand, Jayawardene was confident he could develop into a good Test bowler, if he can work on his control. In the recent Tests he swung the ball and seamed it in both directions, while also finding reverse swing with the old ball, but was guilty of waywardness, particularly at the P Sara.

"Eranga's got something to offer. He's got a bit of pace and a bit of movement and he's a fiery cricketer. As long as we can get him to focus on the job in hand and get him to have that kind of discipline that he requires in Test cricket. That will only come when he plays a few matches. I definitely think that if he stays healthy and gets stronger, he could be a handful for any batsman."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent