Ponting demands even better at Hobart
Australia's evolving Test team has flowered in only one match but Ricky Ponting is already demanding it becomes a better outfit than the one that dismantled in January. The innings and 40-run win over Sri Lanka was Ponting's 13th in a row - he needs three to equal the record set by Steve Waugh - and despite the strength of the success he expects more improvement.
"There's no reason why not," he said. "This has been a pretty comprehensive performance."
Before the Test Michael Clarke felt expectations should be lowered following the loss of Warne, McGrath and Langer and the inclusion of Jaques, Johnson and MacGill. It was not Ponting's view.
"You can expect us to maintain some very high standards," he said. "The young guys have a chance to forge identities and hopefully we can keep this group together and stretch the gap between first and second."
The same 12 Australian faces will head to Hobart for the second Test on Friday and the swift naming of the squad was in contrast to the Sri Lankans, who refuse to look more than a day ahead despite retaining the belief they can challenge the world champions. Mahela Jayawardene's men were unable to stay beside Australia after the opening session of a rain-interrupted match and were outperformed in all areas except offspin bowling, where Muttiah Muralitharan had no competition.
"To lose by an innings is very hurtful," Jayawardene said. "The way we went about the whole Test, we never got back in even though we tried very hard. The way we batted in the first innings was the most disappointing. On a third-day Test wicket we should have fought much more. That's where we lost the Test."
Sri Lanka fell for 211 in the first innings and improved to 300 at the second attempt through Michael Vandort's 82 and contributions from Jayawardene and Chamara Silva. Australia's bowlers did not permit them to do any more and they eased the immediate concerns over how an attack missing Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne would fare.
Brett Lee, who stepped forward as the leader, was the dominant force with eight wickets and Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark chipped in with four each for the game. "The way Brett approached this role was fantastic," Ponting said. "He had a really mature outlook, he really dropped his pace at certain times when he needed line and length. Then with the tail, like this morning, he really ran in quick and unsettled them and knocked over a couple."
Lee must continue to guide his less-experienced team-mates throughout the remainder of the summer and Ponting is also wary of not getting too carried away. "The transition phase has gone really well in this game and it's important that the guys look at the reasons for that," he said. "They need to go to Hobart and try to improve."
After the power of the performance there is a general feeling - it is not shared by the visiting team - that Sri Lanka have missed their chance to disrupt Australia's regeneration. The home team was at its most insecure for the game and still triumphed without needing to bat for a second time.
"It is an opportunity that we should have exploited, but we were not capable enough to do it over the first two days," Jayawardene said. "We dropped a couple of half-chances and if we'd taken those it would have created more pressure on their batsmen."
Australia also spilled a handful of catches but were still able to dominate in a strong all-round performance. For Ponting it was just the beginning. "This is one Test win," he said. "We hope the end result of this group over the next 12 months is that the gap does widen [between Australia and the other teams]. The overall plan is we stay a good step ahead of the rest of the pack."
Australia squad Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart MacGill, Ben Hilfenhaus.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo