Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Sri Lanka skipper positive at start of Australian tour

AP , ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIAAFP, BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICAAFP, MULTAN, PAKISTAN

Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan practices his unique bowling technique at the Adelaide Oval yesterday during the team's first training session of its Australian tour.

PHOTO: AFP

Sri Lanka expressed confidence in their ability to threaten the world's best side when they arrived in Australia on Wednesday for a two-Test series.

"The last few occasions we were here for the one dayers we've proved we can handle pace and bounce against quality opposition and it's a good testing ground for us," touring captain Mahela Jayawardene said.

"We've competed really well in the last 18 months away from home, we've beaten New Zealand in New Zealand, England in England, so this is another place for us to challenge ourselves," he said.

The Sri Lankans believe they have the bowling armory -- a four-pronged pace attack supported by spinner Muttiah Muralitharan -- to flourish in Australian conditions.

"The pace bowling attack is extremely strong, they showed that in the last one day series against England, four good pace bowlers and the conditions out here will suit them," coach Trevor Bayliss said.

Jayawardene said Australia's formidable home advantage would test every aspect of the touring team.

"They've still got a very good side. We have to challenge them in bowling, batting, fielding and mentally be very tough under different conditions. We have to be very strong to beat them in different situations in the matches," he said.

"It's not just one area but if you are to beat Australia in Australia you have to play your best game possible," Jayawardene said.

No team has beaten Australia in a Test series in Australia since the West Indies in 1993, though South Africa (1994), New Zealand (2001) and India (2004) have drawn series.

Bayliss and Jayawardene hoped Sri Lanka would receive a fair reception from Australian crowds. Muralitharan, particularly, has been taunted by Australian fans on past tours.

"There's always idiots in every crowd, I don't know whether you're going to stop that 100 percent," Bayliss said. "But the majority of people realize it's the wrong thing to do and don't get involved."

Sri Lanka meet Australia in Tests at Brisbane and Hobart.

Sri Lanka squad

Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Marvan Atapattu, Malinga Bandara, Dilhara Fernando, Sanath Jayasuriya, Prasanna Jayawardene, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Jehan Mubarak, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga, Chaminda Vaas, Michael Vandort, Chanaka Welegedara.

Daniel Vettori faces a tough challenge as New Zealand's new captain on their tour of South Africa which was due to start with a four-day match against a South African Invitation XI in Bloemfontein yesterday.

Vettori was appointed captain of the Black Caps after former skipper Stephen Fleming stepped down as one-day captain following the World Cup in the West Indies earlier this year.

Fleming said he wanted to continue to lead the Test side but the selectors opted for a complete change, putting Vettori, 28, in charge for all matches.

The tall left-arm spinner had his first taste of leadership when he skippered the Black Caps to the semi-finals of the recent World Twenty20 in South Africa but taking on the host country in two Tests and three one-day internationals is likely to be an altogether more challenging task.

New Zealand were beaten 2-0 in a three-Test series in South Africa two seasons ago after losing a one-day series 4-0.

One of the key players for Vettori in the Test matches will be his predecessor, Fleming, who has been picked as a specialist batsman. On the 2005/06 tour Fleming made 262 in the drawn second Test in Cape Town, a record score by any visiting batsman in a Test in South Africa.

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