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December 11, 2012
Having graced Sri Lanka's last Test match visit to Hobart with an unforgettable century on a pitch that retained its good humour throughout, Kumar Sangakkara is hopeful of an altogether different surface when the tourists meet Australia in the first Test at Bellerive Oval on Friday.
Sangakkara's fourth innings rearguard in 2007, against an Australian bowling attack then featuring Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Stuart MacGill alongside Mitchell Johnson, took place on a surface far less capricious than the strip that has furrowed plenty of brows since being relaid before this summer.
After the fashion of last season when New Zealand regrouped after a hiding in Brisbane to capitalise on a green seamer with a dramatic victory, Sangakkara reasoned that another "sporting" wicket in Tasmania would be of similar benefit to Sri Lanka. Any lateral movement may be exploited quite handily by the thrifty Nuwan Kulasekara, the slippery Shaminda Eranga and the left-armer Chanaka Welegedara.
"We've seen some of the games that [Australia] has played. There's been a bit of nibble about but it's been sporting to both sides," Sangakkara said. "Wickets like this make fast bowlers really enthusiastic to play, and it elevates guys who don't have that much pace. If it stays the same, I think our fast bowlers will have a really good chance against the Aussie batsmen."
While Sangakkara's hopes may yet be fulfilled, the surface appears to have settled somewhat in recent weeks. It also appeared to be quite friendly to Australia's players when they inspected it on Tuesday afternoon, and trained local eyes reckon it is flat enough to reap plenty of runs once the extra bite offered by the new ball has been negotiated. The other variable is the weather forecast, with rain and cloud slated to arrive in time for day one.
Sri Lanka's batsmen have some considerable adjusting to do over the next two days, as the wicket they were presented with at Canberra's Manuka Oval was amenable to centre wicket net practice but almost devoid of the kind of life commonly associated with Australian pitches. Sangakkara admitted the tourists would have liked something a little more lively for their only warm-up fixture: "We probably would have preferred a more sporting wicket for the practice game but that's the way it goes."
One young batsman seeking to make an impression will be the opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who blazed a rapid, unbeaten 60 on his debut against New Zealand in Galle, rebounding from a first innings duck in the process. Karunaratne was subsequently dropped for the second Test when Tillakaratne Dilshan returned from injury, but Sangakkara said the tour selectors would consider the 24-year-old's merits against those of Tharanga Paranavitana, who has been only moderately successful in his 32 Tests to date.
"There' a spot up for grabs to open along with Dilshan, and Dimuth would be looking forward to trying to grab that particular spot," Sangakkara said. "It's between him and Paranavitana I think. Paranavitana has played 30-odd Tests, Dimuth is pretty fresh and has played just one Test match but he's shown a lot of intent and good things. I think it will be a tough battle."
"I thought Dimuth batted really well in the second innings. We had to get 93 to win in Galle and he knocked it off almost at a run a ball, so that was fantastic to watch. It shows that he has confidence and the ability to bounce back from disappointment."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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