Australia will be looking for its first Test series victory since March 2010 when they take on Sri Lanka in the three-match Warne-Muralitharan Trophy.
The first Test starts on August 31 in Galle, before the series moves to Pallekele for the second Test beginning on September 8 and the third and final Test in Colombo starting on September 16.
The series also marks the official start of Michael Clarke as Australia skipper following Ricky Ponting’s decision to stand down. Ponting remains in the line-up, but not as captain.
Sri Lanka are the favourites to win the series on home turf but the Aussies are a bit of an unknown at the moment.
Batting: Sri Lanka’s batting order is strong at the top but thins out quickly once you past the top four. Kumar Sangakkara is the real star with the bat, while Mahela Jayawardene is a fine player too. Thilan Samaraweera’s addition to the middle order is a move to reinforce the batting line-up and he could hold the key if the top four fail to deliver.
Bowling: Sri Lanka are without Lasith Malinga so finding a way to make early breakthroughs will be a point of contention for skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan. Shaminda Eranga and Chanaka Welegedara have a big challenge ahead to find a way past Shane Watson at the top of the Aussie order. The spin attack will play a key role too, with Ajantha Mendis already troubling the Aussies in the shorter format of the game recently. Finding some support in the spin department could give Sri Lanka the edge.
Batting: Arguably this is Australia’s strength, with Shane Watson at the top of the order the real genuine star. Phil Hughes’ addition in place of Simon Katich has been met with some criticism, while Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke at three and four are class players but haven’t always been solid in the past 12 months, particularly the former. Usman Khawaja could soon emerge as a star in the Baggy Green too, while Brad Haddin adds depth at seven.
Bowling: Sri Lanka don’t like the ball dug in short and quick, with a bit of nip. That suits Australia’s key strike weapon Mitchell Johnson who needs to fire this series. If Ryan Harris can get the ball to move he’ll add some value, while it remains to be seen if Australia go with two spinners on the Sri Lankan pitches with Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon among the squad. They may be better served going with three quicks to work to Sri Lanka’s weaknesses.
Probable First Test Teams:
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan (c), Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Prasanna Jayawardene(wk), Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Chanaka Welegedara.
Australia: Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (c), Michael Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Brad Haddin(wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Michael Beer.