SYDNEY, Jan 2: Mahela Jayawardene will start his final Test match as Sri Lanka cricket captain in the third Test against Australia on Thursday asking his players for a dramatic improvement if they are to avoid a series whitewash.
Jayawardene, who will relinquish the leadership after the Sydney Test, said on Wednesday that the Sri Lankans have let themselves down on a tour that has so far included a laboured 137-run loss in Hobart and a dismal defeat by an innings and 201 runs in Melbourne.
The 35-year-old Jayawardene has had less than a week to lift a side that mustered just two scores over 300 across two innings at the MCG, and faces a firing Australia attack bolstered by the return of the rested Mitchell Starc and the rejuvenated Mitchell Johnson.
Jayawardene said it was up to the dwindling cadre of experienced players in the squad to coax a more focused performance from the side.
“It is a bit hard but it is about individuals taking responsibility and knowing what they need to do,” Jayawardene said. “If you sit down and look at what we’ve achieved in this series, it’s not that hard to say ‘no, we haven’t done enough.’ We need to really stand up and be counted.”
Keeping the game alive into a fourth and fifth day is absolutely crucial to Sri Lanka, with the combination of a deteriorating pitch and spinner Rangana Herath representing the tourists’ most realistic shot at a first win in 13 attempts on Australian soil.
Sri Lanka hung on until the final session in Hobart thanks to the combined efforts of Kumar Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews, but Sangakkara is out this time with a hand injury.
Joining Sangakkara on the sidelines are seamer Chanaka Welegedara and wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene.
Dinesh Chandimal will replace Sangakkara and Nuwan Pradeep is likely to replace Welegedara. Lahiru Thirimanne could also come into the side, with Chandimal keeping wicket.
But Sri Lanka’s biggest problem for their first ever Test at the SCG could be a home side that is finding some real form.
Australia captain Michael Clarke has seemed untroubled by the absence of injured all-rounder Shane Watson, with Johnson having hit an unbeaten 92 in Melbourne to go with match figures of 6-79 on his return to the side.
“Mitch’s time away from the game has freshened his body and also freshened his mind,” Clarke said. “He knows now in this group he is a senior player and he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.”
Teams: AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke (captain), Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.
SRI LANKA (from): Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Suraj Randiv.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Tony Hill (New Zealand).
TV umpire: Nigel Llong (England).
Match referee: Chris Broad (England).—AP