HOBART: Skipper Michael Clarke has vowed there will be no complacency in the Test series with Sri Lanka, insisting Australia will improve on their recent performances against South Africa.
The Australians had the better of the opening two Tests against the world number one Proteas only to be crushed by 309 runs in the series decider in Perth last week.
Sri Lanka are ranked sixth in the world, have not won in 10 Tests in Australia over 25 years and are rated outsiders to upset Clarke's team in the three-Test series, beginning in Hobart on Friday.
Former Australian quick Rodney Hogg has rubbished the Sri Lankan attack as the “worst ever” to come to Australia, with Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga and Chanaka Welegedara only having 38 Tests and 99 wickets between them.
Clarke said the third-ranked Australia were focused only on beating Sri Lanka in the first Test since 168-Test great Ricky Ponting's retirement.
“The opposition is irrelevant to how you judge yourself as players,” he said.
“Our goal is not to come out and play the same way against Sri Lanka as we did against South Africa.
“We have to learn from that series, take the positives - and I thought there were a lot of positives – and the areas where we need to get better, we need to make sure we do that.
“I'm sure that if we improve on the series against South Africa, we'll continue to have success.”
Mitchell Johnson has been left out for the Hobart Test with Australia opting for the pace attack of Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and left-armer Mitchell Starc, supplemented by swing bowler Shane Watson and spinner Nathan Lyon.
Recalled Phil Hughes will bat at number three with Watson at four while Clarke and veteran Mike Hussey stay at five and six in the Australian lineup now missing Ponting.
“The strength and advantage we now have in our top four is that all four have opened the batting for Australia,” Clarke said.
“So against the new ball they will be very well suited and if we lose early wickets we're still very capable against the new ball which is a real positive.”
Clarke also defended the daredevil batting style of opener David Warner, whose second innings dismissal for 29 against South Africa in Perth triggered criticism.
“The one thing we have to understand about Davey, is that the same ball that got him out in Perth, we were all applauding in Adelaide when it went over slips for four. That's the way he plays,” he said.
“The only thing I continue to say to Davey is to make sure his intent is there. When the intent is there, his defence is better, his shot selection is better.
“Sometimes it's not going to look great when he gets out, but on the other hand he has the X-factor. He takes the game away from the opposition in the first session of a Test match ... there's not many players in the world that have that talent.”
Clarke rated Warner's unbeaten 123 in last year's Hobart Test against New Zealand as among the dashing left-hander's finest.
“I think one of Davey's greatest innings was the hundred he scored here against New Zealand in really tough batting conditions. He still had that intent, even though the wicket was doing a lot. His shot selection was perfect.
“In a perfect world, you'd love to bottle that, but you have to have a bit of give and take with Davey.”