Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Perth February 9, 2012

Jayawardene targets Australian attack

The Sri Lankan captain admits Australia have a strong batting line-up and that his side will have to devise a game plan to rein them in

The triangular series needs a strong Sri Lanka, especially after their slow start to the tournament on Wednesday night in Perth. The much-criticised format finds itself in a strange situation even before the end of the first of the four legs of the league stage. The crowds are coming to Australia games only - the India-Sri Lanka game was watched by fewer than 7000 at the WACA - but it's when India played Sri Lanka that we got the only close international game of the summer, across formats. Then again the close game lacked the quality and intensity Australia have brought. Clearly we need both India and Sri Lanka to run Australia close to prevent the return of the bad old days of the triangular, which starts to feel bloated if one team is significantly more dominant than the others.

Sri Lanka stood up to, and bossed Australia when they last played here, winning their first series in the country, though that was a bilateral. Their chance to do so again arrives on Friday, and the captain Mahela Jayawardene feels they can hurt Australia's bowling. That is an interesting observation considering how well the Australian quicks have bowled to the Indian batsmen all summer. There has been little let-up even though several of the first-choice quicks have not been available because of injuries: Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee.

Jayawardene, though, thinks his side can push the Australian bowling. "Right now, the bowling probably [the weakness he sees]," Jayawardene said. "[Ryan] Harris has come back after injury, he is a decent bowler, but they are still missing quite a few front-line guys. That's an area we can target."

It was more an honest assessment than any disrespect or an attempt at mental games by Jayawardene. "Overall they are a strong side," he said. "They have got good batting, but with any strong batting line-up we need to pick up wickets. We need to come up with a game plan to do that. Think we did that to a certain extent [against India]. We will try to do the same with Australia as well."

If there is a lesson Sri Lanka can learn from India - and there can't be many from a side that has lost all its games against the hosts so far bar one Twenty20 - is that Australia's batting can be shaky. Often India have been able to get through Australia's top order, but have just as often, and frustratingly, failed to convert them into wins.

Jayawardene realises that. "We have to be smart to beat them," he said. "We know what their strengths are. We know what our strengths are. It's all about how you are going to apply on the day. You get into different situations in a match. Certain situations we didn't handle better than India. That's why they won the game. Against Australia we will be in certain situations again, we have to handle them in a much smarter and better way. Try and be on top of them, and try and finish a game off."

Sri Lanka must be given some elbow room, for the India game was their their first after dramatic turmoil - and we don't quite know if it has ended - in their cricket. The coach and captain have been changed for mysterious reasons, the players haven't been paid for a while, and they have an old hand now taking up captaincy in the interim. Jayawardene said he felt the nerves when he went out for the toss for the first time since he resigned as captain.

"All that [the long-term future] is far ahead," Jayawardene said. "I haven't given it much thought. The decision to take over was a very tough one. The easiest thing for me was to say no. But the situation we are in right now I felt I needed to take that responsibility. And try and do my best and see what happens. Spoke to the usual people that I speak to about the game, they all felt the same way. It took me 24 hours to take the call."

Jayawardene has a completely different team to lead from the one whose reins he relinquished exactly three years back. Back then, he had Muttiah Muralitharan at the height of his powers, and he was used to winning much more than Sri Lanka have managed over the last year.

"I don't want to compare," Jayawardene said. "The team I had was different, but I am trying to do something that is unique. I have still got some really good players. It's how we get combinations, it's how we get different players to identify their roles, and play vital roles in the team. That's what we are trying to do. I was nervous going for the toss, to be honest with you, but after that, once the game started it was fine. Hopefully it will be the same as usual."

Sri Lanka will look for a big improvement from their big three batsmen - Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene himself. Lasith Malinga too faces a new challenge with the two-ball rule. The ball hardly gets old nowadays, which combined with the lush outfields makes it difficult for him to get much reverse swing.

Like India, Sri Lanka find themselves out of their comfort zone here in Australia, but if they do overcome the many odds at the WACA on Friday they will leave the tournament in a much healthier shape than now.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fadzai on February 10, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    Mahela should just not be in this team. He is not pulling his weight at all as he is really out of form. Dilshan is showing signs of getting back into form but needs to push on for a big score. Chandimal...well it is there for all to see, what a gem of a player and Matthews...well done. It was a good knock you played dude and you bowled really well too. I am for more youngsters in this team....

  • Laksiri on February 10, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    Bowlers did well to restrict Aussies below 240. Batsmen cannot let it fell short of the moderate target 232 against depleted attack even after being 1 for 11 and Sanga's fatal run out when he was at 22.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    It has become fashion to criticise Indian team members for their poor performance in England and Australia. Those people never mention about Indian team's performance on its own soil by beating West Indies in the series and then routing England in ODI 4-0. If India lost in foreign pitches even England and West Indies also lost miserably outside their Country. We have seen how England suffered in the hands of Pakistan in Test Series in UAE by 4-0. Even Australia was humbled in India and Newzeland when they toured. Targeting only Indians is not good. We have many talented youngsters who with experience can beat any team in future. Let us support our team than unnecessarily abusing and demoralising them.

  • Tania on February 10, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    We are with you all the way Boyz! Go SL So!

  • abhishek on February 10, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    Being an Indian fan, i feel really surprised by the optimism that other Indian fans show after the team has won just ODI and a good for nothing T20. Except the fact folks, we had been hammered in England and in the test series in Australia. Even in the one dayer against Australia, we were bashed by the superior game from Kangaroos and we left no stone unturned to loose the match against Sri Lanka which we could have won very easily !!

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2012, 4:09 GMT

    I'm Janaka,crazy cricket lover from Sri Lanka,this is for indian friends,pls don't critisize SL cricket & team,you haven't got a right to do so,that was a 1 match,let's see what will happen in the future,don't be selfishmy indian friennds,we are going to win the cup,i know defanaitely SL & Aus will come to the final & we do win the sereas.Mahela is the gratest captain Sl has ever produced with Arjuna Ranatunga.let's see what will happen to your indian team in next matches,Mahela will give the answers with batting & his smart tactics managing the team.don't underestimate SL team & players,pls try to give some credits for them,we know what is the game of cricket.let them to reorganise & they will perform well,i know they do bring the trophy to motherland.good luck Sri Lanka,we are with you,no need to answer to tjese boasting indians again & again,we will show you with our talants,wish you all the very best Sri Lanka.Janaka Rathnagoda

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Well I guess Mahela is way off the mark when he says that Australian batting is strong and that their bowling is their weakness

    But its true to an extent that siddle and hilfenhaus arent playing the one dayers but then they still have enough ammunition.The problem with one day cricket is that even a strong bowling attack isnt enough to win matches, its a batsman's game

  • Nathan on February 10, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    @6pack - Australia don't claim to be the best test side either, because they're not at the moment and have work to do to get back to #1. But we're dealing with one dayers now and Aus ARE the best ODI side, according to the rankings they are miles ahead of the closest competitor. Same to RohanMarkJay_TestCricketRules to ProdigyB - the rankings speak for themselves - if you think Aus are overrated in the one day arena, or not as good as they're being made out to be, then that's simply because you haven't been keeping up with their ODI results of the last few years. Cue the dissenters with one off examples to try to invalidate overall results ...

  • Leo on February 10, 2012, 3:57 GMT

    Sri Lanka cannot afford to win with 233 on the board batting first. Any top team can score that against their indisciplined bowling attack. All their bowlers go for five an over and above. So how can SL win with anything under 270, on any Aussie wicket. As soon as the first wicket goes down. Sanga comes in and although he is rock solid, bowlers know how to slow him down. Mahela is the only batsman who can rorate the strike at will. Whenever he has opened SL has done well. Can SL afford to have such a quality player sitting on a chair till the third wicket falls in the 25th over ?. If Mahela bats 40 overs SL will win nine out of ten games.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2012, 3:46 GMT

    @6pack: It is worth remembering that the last ODI then was the only game Starc played. So it is logical to compare that game only since 75% of the current attack is similar to that. It would be better if you think before you ink and attack others. I wonder if you remember but most Aussies agreed that time that SL played better cricket in that series despite playing against an injury-struck opposition. There is no lack of sportsmanship attitude in this country unlike what you may think!

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