GALLE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – Sri Lanka will bank on its spinners in the first test match against Australia starting on Wednesday in Galle, a pitch historically favouring turn, but the visitors’ debutant bowlers may cause trouble to the host nation’s batsmen.
Both nations, playing a test against each other for the first time since 2004, are lacking bowling quality they once had in the likes of Australia’s Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne and world record wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vass from Sri Lanka.
Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson and Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis have bowled impressively in patches in the past, but other bowlers are yet to show they can consistently take wickets tests.
Australia outperformed Sri Lanka in the five-match one-day series 3-2, despite pacer Lasith Malinga’s reverse swing hat-rick magic in the last ODI.
The absence of Malinga through retirement from test cricket may be a relief for Michael Clarke’s team, but Sri Lanka still arguably have the edge in spin with Ajantha Mendis, Suraj Randiv, and Rangana Herath, who collectively have 46 test matches under their belts.
They also have the advantage of uncapped spinner Seekuge Prasanna who bagged 3-for-32 in his one-day debut against Australia.
Galle’s wicket has historically has been a slow one with Muralitharan being the highest wicket taker with 111 to his name in just 15 tests.
Mendis and Herath have taken 21 and 10 wickets respectively in four matches apiece.
Australia will rely on uncapped spinner Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer, who had just played one test match against England, capturing only one wicket.
Clarke also has been a useful part time left-arm orthodox spinner.
“I think the wickets are going to spin a fair bit and spin bowling, how you play spin-bowling, is going to play a big part in the success of either team over here,” Clarke told reporters after the final one-day match.
Clarke will lead a new-look Australian test team for the first time since taking over from Ricky Ponting.
“Right now we’re desperate to beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in the Test series,” said Clarke. “We’re a long way from becoming the number one team in the world at this stage.
“We’re ranked five so our goal is to get to four and by beating Sri Lanka in this series I think we can. That’s our goal at this point.”