Start of a new era for the Australians
by Asher Wilson

Scorecard:Australia v Sri Lanka
Event:Sri Lanka in Australia 2012/13

DateLine: 13th December 2012


Australia v Sri Lanka
1st Test 2012
Match Preview


It's the start of a new era for the Australians as they enter this Test series against Sri Lanka without former skipper Ricky Ponting. Michael Clarke now has a chance to make his mark on Australian cricket as he looks to get his side ready for next years much anticipated Ashes Series over in England.


The Australians will be weary after their series against the Proteas. The Aussies were as fierce as always in competition and had the better of the series, however could not provide the finishing touches to a resilient Proteas outfit. They'll find the Sri Lankans an easier prospect, but would do a disservice in underestimating them while seeking their first Test win on Australian soil.


Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has a chance to make history in Hobart this weekend. It is his last series as captain, and he has never tasted victory Down Under, not in a single game as player or skipper. In fact, Sri Lanka have never won a Test in Australia and in all the games they have contested overall, Sri Lanka have won only once, all the way back in 1999 in Kandy. The last time they visited Aussie shores, they played their final game in Hobart and lost by 96 runs.


Now they come to a relaid ground, where the deck is supposedly variable and not fun to bat on, with the Aussies still recovering from an energy-sapping series against South Africa. The visitors are not in the strongest position to take advantage of that though, having lost their last Test to New Zealand in Colombo.


Sri Lanka must contend with the unstoppable force that is Michael Clarke, who is in imperious form with the bat and growing in confidence as skipper with every game. Still, 'Pup' will need his top order to come to the party and support him, even though there's been a shuffle of late.


If fingers of blame are to be pointed when analyzing their 0-1 loss to the Proteas, they would likely make their way to those occupying the number three and four positions. Of course, this includes Ricky Ponting. In the twilight of his career he was a shadow of his former dominant self, allowing early inroads to turn into top-order catastrophes. Michael Clarke has been the Australian saviour in the past year from these positions and although Ponting’s dressing-room and leadership presence is (and should be) lamented, he was no longer justifying his place in the pivotal number four position. Philip Hughes, after a year away from the Test stage following a thorough dismantling of his technique by New Zealand, returns at number three. This shifts Shane Watson into the number four position.


A concern for the Australians presents itself in the make-up of their bowling attack. The resting of Siddle and Hilfenhaus for the final Test against South Africa has them back to full fitness, but has also opened the door for replacements. Selection won't be too difficult, with a host of injuries ruling a few quicks out, but Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc retain their places in the squad. With Lyon likely to retain the spin role and Siddle doing little to warrant exclusion, it seems the battle will be between Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Starc. Both Mitchell's put in good performances against South Africa in the last Test and Hilfenhaus has looked a little bit flat. A good option might be to start the two left-armers alongside Siddle, with Watson providing the back-up and Lyon the turn.


Sri Lankan new coach Graham Ford's reservations about his side measuring up to the Australians boils down to the strength of their batting against quality pace bowling. Their shortcomings were on display against the Proteas last year on lively South African wickets and will be put to the test again on a pitch that is known to be fast bowler friendly. The most alarming is their loss to New Zealand a couple of weeks ago at home. Southee and Boult terrorised the Sri Lankan order and against the likes of Siddle and his counterparts, things are looking grim. Among their batsmen, few are showing any signs of definite form. The time has also come to examine opening batsman Paranavitana, as he has shown little in the way of improvement at this level. The Sri Lankan's are yet to decide on the make up of their squad for this Test but it looks as though youngster Dimuth Karunaratne could come into the side. The opening batsman has been in fine form of late and could replace Tharanga Paranavitana at the top of the order, partnering Dilshan.


The Sri Lankans do have a few things going for them however. They had never won a Test in South Africa before the Boxing Day Test in Durban and few thought they would. They come to Australia hungry for another upset and another slice of history for a both aging and emerging outfit. Their best chance of this is probably in Sydney, as the pitch will be helpful for their spinners. This being said, the Sri Lankan pace attack is vastly improved and the likes of Kulasekara, Eranga and Welegedara may do well on pitches that offer a bit of assistance. It would also silly to overlook the Australians' loss to New Zealand in Hobart last year, where lateral movement as a result of a good line and a full length paid dividends to the accurate. Sri Lanka have a sniff, but much will depend on their aging stalwarts in the batting department.


The Bellerive Oval in Hobart will play host to the first Test and regardless of the match against New Zealand, much of the talk has settled around the scenario of it being difficult to negotiate the pace bowlers in the morning sessions, after which it will improve for batting.


Australia (Probable): Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus


Sri Lanka (Probable): Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana / Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Chanaka Welegedara.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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