Lehmann outlines Sri Lanka blueprint

Twin spin, batting big and being wary of how a deteriorating pitch can dictate the pace of play. Australia's coach Darren Lehmann highlighted these areas as key battlegrounds in the series against Sri Lanka, as the touring team moved out of their initial Colombo base to prepare for the first Test match in Kandy.

Steve O'Keefe's 10-wicket haul opposite Nathan Lyon has more than likely vaulted him back into the Test XI after he missed the tour of New Zealand, particularly as Lehmann and the selection chairman Rod Marsh are expecting a sparsely grassed surface when the series begins on July 26. They also expect pitches that will start out flat before deteriorating rapidly at the back end of each match, and can foresee Sri Lanka trying to test the patience of an aggressive batting line-up by blocking the boundaries. To lose patience is to lose the battle.

"You play the conditions on each game, so for us it did start to turn a lot [at P Sara Oval], which is pleasing, our spinners exploited that very well, so the conditions they're learning to bowl in is pretty important as the Test matches wear on here in Sri Lanka," Lehmann said. "They're pretty good wickets to start with, and that's the challenge for us, going big and making big runs.

"We know that Sri Lanka will defend a lot once batters are in, so it's going to take a lot longer to get your runs if that makes sense. We've spoken about the need to bat long periods of time is going to be key, which we've done pretty well to be fair over the last little while, but the challenge is to do it here.

"Knowing the game is going to speed up as the wickets deteriorate, that's going to be important to be ahead of the game in the Test series, but really happy with where everyone's at. Our batters have a big role to play and our bowlers were probably a little bit rusty in the first innings but pleased we got through, there's no injury concerns and away we go."

Lehmann spoke warmly of O'Keefe and also Lyon, who was recovering from illness over the course of the tour match, and is set to play a central role in the same country he made a memorable Test debut back in 2011. Significantly, Lehmann pointed to the use of tandem spin, turning the ball in opposite directions, as something that would be vital not only in Sri Lanka, but also India next year.

"He's been excellent for NSW, had a lot of success in Shield cricket, his 200th first-class wicket today so pleased for him," Lehmann said of O'Keefe. "He's worked really hard, he's a really lively, buzzy character for us and played exactly the role we want him to play over here in this game. Bats really well, fields really well and complements Nathan really well, spinning the other way.

"We think that [twin spin] is the way to go. India do it there with Jadeja and Ashwin and most teams have a spinner going both ways, so for us that's important."

A conclusion drawn by Lehmann and the team performance manager Pat Howard from unsuccessful recent tours to India and the UAE to play Pakistan was that touring sides needed to spend as much time as possible in unfamiliar climes before walking out on day one of the series proper. To that end, the Australians have followed an internal practice fixture with the match in Colombo, and will now have five days in Kandy before Angelo Mathews tosses the coin next week.

"We've come over here a little bit earlier than we normally would, we think that's a helpful thing in future, we haven't done that in the past," Lehmann said. "So to come a little bit earlier here and go a bit earlier to India to get acclimatised for an extra few days and hopefully an extra game in most places."

Having entered the final week of their preparation, all Lehmann is looking for now is the announcement of Sri Lanka's tour squad, the better to plan individual opponents. "I wouldn't mind the side at some stage," he said. "That's the challenge, I don't think anyone knows what squad they've got. Once they name their squad we'll work through that. We know a bit about them. They'll be a lot better side at home, and that's going to be a challenge for us, but end of the day we just worry about what we're doing. Once we get their squad away we go."

The only Australian player under any sort of fitness cloud is David Warner, in the latter stages of recovery from a broken thumb, but Lehmann gave no hint of thinking the vice-captain might be in any doubt to open the innings with Joe Burns: "We're preparing for him to play."