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Peter English in Brisbane
November 4, 2007
Sri Lanka's batsmen stuttered during the four-wicket loss to Queensland in their final warm-up before the first Test on Thursday and Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, was limping with a sore heel. While Jayawardene insists the lingering injury will not be a problem at the Gabba, the troubles of the run-makers might not be as easy to fix.
The Sri Lankans' top order failed in both innings - the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene and the No. 9 Chaminda Vaas saved any major embarrassment with half-centuries - and they have only three more days to adapt to the bounce and pace of the local surfaces. Jayawardene was confident there would be less sideways movement across town at the Gabba than there was at Allan Border Field over the past three days and that his batsmen would alter their plans to cope.
"There are no excuses, we probably could have been much more positive with our shot selection," Jayawardene said. "We were just trying to see how things were going rather than taking a few more chances."
Visiting Test captains are always under extra pressure when they visit Australia and Jayawardene missed the chance to deflect questions about his batting with a low-key start to the tour. After making a half-century and zero against modest opposition in Adelaide last week, Jayawardene followed up with 0 and 35 against a high-quality Queensland attack.
Despite the struggles, he is prepared for the attention from the Australians, who have been very successful in shutting down opposition captains. "If they want to target me I have no issues with that," he said. "I just have to handle myself the way I want."
One area that is not bothering Sri Lanka is the bowling department, which created regular bouts of nervousness for Queensland's batsmen over the past three days. Farveez Maharoof impressed the home side in collecting six wickets and gave the Test selectors a choice between him and Dilhara Fernando, although picking four fast bowlers alongside Muttiah Muralitharan is a combination which will also be considered.
"That's something we'll have to talk about in the next few days and see what our options are," Jayawardene said. "We just need to see the wicket." Sri Lanka will have their first training session at the ground on Tuesday.
Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas also bowled strongly in the tour game and Sri Lanka believe they are capable of matching Australia's attack now that Glenn McGrath has retired. "They showed here they have the potential to do that and we just have to take the opportunity," he said. "The guys did well, creating opportunities."
Johnson will step into the Australian side for his debut, but he took only two wickets in the match and Jayawardene felt he was handled well by his batsmen. However, Jimmy Maher, the Queensland captain, was pleased with Johnson's performance and said he "had to play" in the Test.
"As he has come back, in Sydney [in the Pura Cup] and now this game, he has got better and better the more he has bowled," Maher said. "You have to remember these guys haven't bowled with the red ball for quite some time. Today Mitchell bowled very, very quick and he swung the ball and committed the batsmen a lot as well. I was really happy with the way he went."
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