Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 January 20, 2013

Problems for Australia, promise for Sri Lanka

Australia trail 2-1 with one match to play and there are plenty of issues for Mickey Arthur's side to work through

Australia still deficient against the moving ball
Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach, had wanted to "find out about a few players" during this series. A trio of pitches offering something to the seam bowlers in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney have given him more information than he may have wanted. The travails of the batsmen against the diligent but hardly intimidating swing and seam of Nuwan Kulasekara have made for dire viewing with this year's tour of England in mind, demonstrating both a lack of technical tightness to handle the moving ball and a mental strength to push through difficult patches. The effect of two new Kookaburra balls in ODIs has been to emulate the more prolonged movement offered by the Dukes projectile favoured in the UK, and for three matches in succession it has been the bowlers who were better able to glimpse wider scoring windows with the bat. It is no coincidence that Australia's strongest result came on a concrete-like Melbourne surface. Apart from The Oval, such a strip will be hard to find during the Tests in India and England that are looming on Arthur's calendar.

Sri Lanka's young batsmen show promise
There are rumblings emanating from Sri Lanka that the installation of a new selection panel may herald the end of Mahela Jayawardene's days in the national team at the end of this tour. If that is so, then the next generation is standing up at precisely the right time. Lahiru Thirimanne's contributions in both the Sydney Test and the ODIs were heartening, while Kushal Perera showed enough spunk as the wicketkeeper-batsman to keep his place for batting alone when the exceedingly promising Dinesh Chandimal returned to fitness from a hamstring strain. While the question of Jayawardene's future is complicated - he remains the best leader Sri Lanka possess, by a distance - the emergence of the aforementioned youthful trio should bring about the conclusion of Thilan Samaraweera's days in the national team. Australia would be grateful for a batting talent or two of Chandimal's ilk.

Rotation is becoming a divisive issue
While there is some sound long-term thinking at the core of the selectors' decision to rest key players during this series and also to be more choosy about which fast bowlers are picked in Test matches, the method behind the madness has been lost on many, including those choosing state teams. If criticism from the public and the media is more than likely to wash over John Inverarity's panel, the following words from the former national chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, now holding the equivalent post for Queensland, show that doubt about the policy is festering. Hohns was asked on ABC Radio whether he would have done the same if still in charge: "It's a difficult one to answer, that one. Times are different but possibly not ... Way back then, we often rotated or rested players only in one-day cricket and at an appropriate time. I think unfortunately at the moment they are having trouble getting their message across over exactly what they are trying to do." Hohns' words arrived after a meeting of state talent managers with the selectors in Adelaide during the national Under-19s carnival, where there was more than one difference of opinion. It should also be noted that before he sternly insisted on the term "informed player management", Inverarity stated in October that "rotation is not a dirty word. Rotation is reality". Reality bites.

With Malinga, Sri Lanka's attack goes from mediocre to strong
Kulasekara's repeated success against the Australians in this series can be at least partly linked to Lasith Malinga's presence in the XI, offering another serious pace threat and meaning the batsmen have been caught in more than one mind against the former's seam and swing. Rather than simply treating each ball with due respect, they have had to contend with the thought that Malinga's overs still lurk ahead in the innings, resulting in some mixed strokes keenly exploited by Kulasekara. The introduction of Rangana Herath to the team for Sydney was another improvement to the ODI line-up, for his consistency will invariably result in a wicket or two through sustained pressure and subtle variations even if the surface is not offering enough turn to beat the bat.

Hussey and Maxwell should be at the fringes of the top six, if at all
Auditions to replace Michael Hussey as a middle order fix-it man have so far been dispiriting. For all their undoubted talent as hitters, and varying usefulness as part-time spin bowlers, David Hussey and Glenn Maxwell have been shown as clearly lacking the technical chops to handle anything other than the most occasional early innings assignments, and only then in an emergency. Maxwell's walking footwork in Adelaide was destined to end in an outside edge and so it proved, while Hussey's outstanding first-class career figures do not reveal the lack of certainty and security against the short ball that was exposed during last year's World Twenty20 semi-final against the West Indies and was underlined by Lasith Malinga at the SCG. Maxwell and Hussey remain in contention to tour India as Test-match utility players, but if they do should not be asked to bat any higher than Nos. 6 or 7.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here