Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart

Sri Lanka seek first win in Australia

The Preview by Brydon Coverdale

December 13, 2012

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

Match facts


Rangana Herath appeals for a wicket, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Colombo, 2nd day, November 26, 2012
Rangana Herath is Test cricket's leading wicket taker over the past year, but can he transfer his home form to Australian conditions? © Associated Press
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December 14-18, Bellerive Oval
Start time 1030 (2330 GMT)

Big Picture

For Australian cricket fans, it will be difficult not to think that the main course has been served before the entrée. The battle with South Africa for the No.1 Test ranking has come and gone, all before the most popular part of Australia's international cricket season, the Christmas and New Year period. But as New Zealand showed with their victory in Hobart last summer, classic Test matches can pop up at any time, against any opponent, and now it is Sri Lanka's turn to attempt to produce the unexpected.

It is not that Sri Lanka are a weak Test team, far from it, but their record away from home is disappointing. Leaving aside Bangladesh, Sri Lanka have won only two away Tests in the past five years, and they are yet to win a Test in Australia. But they will take inspiration from their most recent Test in Hobart, when Kumar Sangakkara was driving Sri Lanka towards an incredible chase of 507 when he was wrongly given out caught off his shoulder. Had the DRS been around, it might well have become one of the greatest Test victories of all time.

Sangakkara is back, and along with Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan forms a formidable batting line-up. Sri Lanka's main issue is finding a way to take 20 wickets. But for all the talk of their less-than-threatening seam attack - Rodney Hogg said this week that ''Sri Lanka have the worst new ball attack that has landed on our shores ever" - Shaminda Eranga showed against the Australians on debut in Colombo last year that he is a bowler to watch out for, and he should enjoy the Australian conditions far more than those at home. Much will also depend on how Rangana Herath transfers his home form to the Australian pitches.

The Sri Lankan attack will be coming up against an evolving batting order. Australia's first Test in the post-Ponting era will also be their first with Phillip Hughes at No.3 and Shane Watson at No.4. It is an order they hope can take them through all of next year and a pair of Ashes series, but if there are any cracks in the plan or nerves amongst the batsmen, it is up to Sri Lanka to find them. Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey at Nos.5 and 6 could hardly be in finer touch, so it is all the more important that Sri Lanka don't let Australia's top order feast.

Form guide

(Most recent first)
Australia LDDWD
Sri Lanka LWDDW

In the spotlight

Phillip Hughes is only 24, but he has already had a number of incarnations in Australia's Test team. The previous one ended in Hobart last December, when he couldn't avoid edging to the cordon off Chris Martin, a recurring theme in that series against New Zealand. His return will come at the same venue, albeit batting at No.3 instead of opening, and facing one of Test cricket's less imposing seam attacks. All the more reason he must make use of this opportunity. Over the past year, Hughes has worked hard to improve his leg-side play and widen his scoring areas, but whether he can translate that to Test cricket is one of the big questions to be answered in this series.

Who is the leading Test wicket taker over the past 12 months? Graeme Swann? Vernon Philander? James Anderson? No, no and no. It's Rangana Herath, who since this time last year has collected 64 Test victims at 20.64. Although it is true that much of his success has come in home conditions - he took 20 wickets in the two recent Tests against New Zealand in Sri Lanka, and 12 against England in Galle - he will still be a challenging opponent for Australia's batsmen. In his newspaper column on Thursday, Michael Clarke wrote that Herath's accuracy and clever variations made him a difficult prospect, and in his first Test in Australia, in Hobart this week, Herath should take note of Shane Warne's oft-quoted advice: "If it seams, it spins".

Team news

Hughes has replaced Ponting in the side and will bat at No.3, with Shane Watson moving down to No.4. Australia's only real question was which bowler to leave out, and Michael Clarke announced on the day before the match that Mitchell Johnson would carry the drinks.

Australia 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Shane Watson, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Nathan Lyon.

Dimuth Karunaratne will partner Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the order, with Tharanga Paranavitana having been dropped after struggling for his best form for some time now. Nuwan Kulasekara will play after sitting out of the tour match in Canberra, where Shaminda Eranga was the best of the bowlers. They will be joined by Chanaka Welegedara in the pace attack, with no room for Dhammika Prasad.

Sri Lanka 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Shaminda Eranga, 11 Chanaka Welegedara.

Pitch and conditions

There are showers forecast for the first four days of the game, which won't make conditions easy for the batsmen, especially on a Bellerive Oval surface that has been relaid this year and has resulted in some awfully seam-friendly conditions in Sheffield Shield matches. In the three games there this season, the totals in the first innings for the team batting first have been 112, 95 and 67. However, the curator Marcus Pamplin is confident that the Test won't suffer the same fate.

"With such a major restoration of over 70 cubic metres of soil of new black soil into the wicket table, the process of the clay to settle down will take time, but we believe we are in a far better position for a more consistent surface than at the start of the season," Pamplin said. "On the back of a good cricket pitch for the last Sheffield Shield game we think the Test pitch should play better and provide a good contest."

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have only beaten Australia once in a Test match, in Kandy in 1999. The only remaining player from either side who was part of that game is Mahela Jayawardene
  • Sangakkara needs another 107 runs to reach 10,000 in Tests and become the 11th man to the milestone
  • This will be Australia's first Test in Hobart without Ricky Ponting since 1995, when David Boon was the only Tasmanian in the side against Pakistan

Quotes

"None of us will be taking Sri Lanka's bowlers for granted even though they may be largely unknown in Australia. It was our batting which let us down during the last Test in Perth."
Michael Clarke

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 14, 2012, 0:17 GMT)

Its funny to see some of the jealous comments from Aussie fans on here, jealous about Anderson, a bowler who has turned Australia inside out time and time again. No wonder Australian bowling is at an historic low when you can't identify real skill when you see it. And when it leads to innings after innings defeat in your own back yard. :)

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 13, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

This series is the ultimate battle of the Minnows. Flat decks will mean a comedic run-fest for both sides against club-rate bowling that both Australia and Sri Lanka will no doubt serve up. Clarke will get out-captained yet again, and the series will prove little for both sides. Get ready for the end-of-2012 Christmas Minnow Bash!

Posted by oval77 on (December 13, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

Australia are you _sure_ Phillip Hughes is ready?? I mean this guy is so seriously good he needs wrapping up in cotton wool and kept away from difficult series right? Are you sure this is the time to unwrap him? Couldn't you save that for the Ashes please? :)

Posted by Chris_P on (December 13, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@ PrasadGunawardane, You are aware that Australia toured Sri Lanka with a much more inexperienced team just 12 months ago, aren't you?

Posted by Nuggett116 on (December 13, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

Wat happened to Chandimal???..... He looked a real GO last time I saw the Lankans play!!

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (December 13, 2012, 21:10 GMT)

With ponting gone theres no reason to follow this now average Ausie side anymore

Posted by   on (December 13, 2012, 20:50 GMT)

Come on Sri Lanka you can do it.

Posted by mamboman on (December 13, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

There won't be much love for SL in this series from the home crowds, I am afraid. Aussie fans hate Sri Lanka more than any other side - and with good reason, if you look at the history.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 13, 2012, 18:13 GMT)

This will be a good test for Herath on green tops. Great Paranavithana is left out.

Posted by deol84 on (December 13, 2012, 17:05 GMT)

good luck to the lankans,i am sure they do better than indians.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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