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