In a bid to beat Sri Lanka at their own game, Australia have hired the island’s most famous spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, as a consultant. Australia will definitely have to change their starting XI after Steve O’Keefe flew home with a pulled hamstring and Jon Holland set to make his debut as a replacement.
Smith said Australia’s batsmen would not only have to adapt to a dry track but also factor in the breeze from the nearby Indian Ocean. “It’s a big breeze here so we could get quite a lot of drift from the spin bowlers and I guess the batters just try to find a way to be successful in these conditions,” he told reporters.
But Sri Lanka are in no mood to let Australia off the hook as they look to follow up their first Test victory over the top side in 17 years, skipper Angelo Mathews said on Wednesday.
Speaking on the eve of the second Test in Galle, Mathews said last week’s dramatic win in the series opener in Pallekele had banished the gloom in the home dressing-room after a string of defeats. Mathews said his team had a game plan for each of the tourists’ leading batsmen who have struggled to adapt to the extra turn on Sri Lanka’s pitches.
“The feeling in the camp is great after the losses we had got in the last six months,” Mathews told reporters. Sri Lanka have endured a torrid 2016, losing their crown as T20 champions after being knocked out in the group stages, before a tour of England where they failed to win any of their nine internationals.
But they showed they remain a formidable side at home by beating Steve Smith’s world number one side in Pallekele, thanks to a maiden century from Kusal Mendis and another five-wicket haul by their lead spinner Rangana Herath.
That victory was the first over Australia in a Test match since 1999 and they now have a chance of securing the three-match series with a game to spare, especially if Herath can cause more havoc on his favourite ground.
“We have got to be cautious and we can’t write them off. They didn’t get runs, but they are a dangerous top order,” Mathews said. “We can’t let them off the hook and we need to be on our
money from the start. It’s tough to play spin here.”
Smith was the only Australian to pass 50 in the match as Australia struggled against Herath and fellow spinner Lakshan Sandakan. “The coaches have come up with plans for each batsman in their side,” said Mathews, while warning against complacency. “We have got to be cautious about their batsmen who haven’t got runs. We have got to stick to the plans and good bowling will win us the game.”
Australia’s last outing to the sub-continent saw them lose all the four Tests against India in 2013 and they also lost both matches when Pakistan hosted them for a two-Test series in 2014 in the Gulf.