HOBART, Dec 13: 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 No 1 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 at the Bellerive Oval here 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 No 3 with Watson at four while Clarke and veteran Mike Hussey stay at five and six in the Australian line-up now missing Ponting.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka are resigned to life without paceman Lasith Malinga in Test matches and do not expect him to make a dramatic return in the series against Australia, captain Mahela Jayawardene said.
Malinga, who retired from Test cricket earlier this year, gave a reminder of what a devastating bowler he can be by taking six wickets for seven runs in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 tournament on Wednesday.
Jayawardene on Thursday named a largely unheralded trio of seamers in his team for the first Test and said it was unrealistic to ask the 29-year-old to return to the Test arena.
“I think Lasith has made up his mind,” he said. “With the injuries he has had over the last couple of years, I think it’s unfair to ask him to come and play Test cricket.”
In Malinga’s absence, Kulasekara, Welegedera and Eranga were the trio named to try to make the most of what is expected to be a lively track.
Jayawardene defended his bowlers against the charge that they were the worst pace attack ever to tour Australia.
“Teams have to start somewhere, we’ve lost some fast bowlers in the past and some to injury,” he said.
“This is an attack which is different, we probably don’t have the pace that you think is required to win Test matches in Australia. But we’ve got guys who will bowl a good line and length and create opportunities and if we do that, we’ve got a chance.”
Dimuth Karunaratne was also included as an opener after scoring an unbeaten 60 on debut in the first Test against New Zealand in Galle last month.
The 24-year-old left-hander replaces 30-year-old Tharanga Paranavitana, who scored 40 and nought in the second Test against the Black Caps in Colombo, which the tourists won.
“We’ve made a call on Dimuth Karunaratne as opener, we think he deserves the chance with the way he’s gone about things,” Jayawardene added.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, along with Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, forms a core of veteran Test batsmen who are expected to give Sri Lanka their best chance of grabbing a first ever Test win in Australia.
AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.
SRI LANKA: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chanaka Welegedera, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath.
Umpires: Tony Hill (New Zealand) and Nigel Llong (England).—Agencies