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Peter English at the Gabba
November 12, 2007
It would not be a surprise if Mahela Jayawardene spent time each day looking into his hotel mirror chanting the line "We believe we can beat Australia". Like The Little Engine That Could, Jayawardene must hope that if he says something often enough it will come true and mountainous tasks will be conquered.
Over the past two weeks he has used a lot of lines about challenging Australia. He has never been boastful or confrontational, but at first he was mildly convincing even when his team was struggling for runs in the final warm-up. When he repeated the message after the innings-and-40-run Test defeat at the Gabba it sounded more like an empty promise.
"We need to believe in ourselves that we can beat Australia," he said quietly. "If we don't have that belief there's no point turning up in Hobart. I firmly believe that we've got the personnel to do that and we just need to back our ability ... Our all-round game needs to improve and I believe we can do it."
The motivational mantras must be swapped for on-field toughness in Friday's second Test and the tourists require more than a good talking over the next couple of days. Methods to deal with Australia's suffocating bowling line and restrictive fields need to be found along with tactics to stifle the hosts' powerful batting order. Trevor Bayliss, the coach, will have a busy few days and the team will be desperate for the return of Kumar Sangakkara to provide some backbone.
Sri Lanka may have arrived in Australia with a balanced squad but that changed when Sangakkara's hamstring tore in the first week of the tour. Ricky Ponting, who recognises the threat of the wicketkeeper-batsman and has caught glimpses of his training and net sessions during the match, expects Sangakkara to play along with Lasith Malinga, who was left out in Brisbane.
Jayawardene was too cautious to predict the return of either, but Malinga's cause was helped by Ponting's local knowledge. The ball did not swing when Ponting scored 96 and 124 in the Pura Cup match at Bellerive Oval two weeks ago and the lack of movement will boost Malinga's chances of inclusion. Vaas was picked at the Gabba because of his swing capabilities and he may have to wait until Sri Lanka face England next month for his 100th Test.
It would be brave if the visitors dumped such an experienced performer for a vital game, but they need to have their most potent combination available if they are going to create any Australian cracks. Their tactics in the first Test were conservative and they were beaten easily despite the public mutterings of self-belief. Attacking actions must replace the words on Friday.
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