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.
Australia 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 in Hobart today.
Former Australia quick Rodney Hogg rubbished the Sri Lanka attack as the “worst ever” to tour Australia, with Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga and Chanaka Welegedara having just 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 a 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 Australia lineup now missing Ponting.
“The strength and advantage we now have in our top four is that all four have opened the batting for Australia,” Clarke said. “So against the new ball they will be very well suited and if we lose early wickets we’re still very capable against the new ball, which is a real positive.”
Clarke also defended the daredevil batting style of opener David Warner, whose second-innings dismissal for 29 against South Africa in Perth triggered criticism.
“The one thing we have to understand about Davey is that the same ball that got him out in Perth, we were all applauding in Adelaide when it went over slips for four. That’s the way he plays,” Clarke said. “The only thing I continue to say to Davey is to make sure his intent is there. When the intent is there, his defense is better, his shot selection is better. Sometimes it’s not going to look great when he gets out, but on the other hand he has the X factor.”
INDIA v ENGLAND
England were 199-5 at stumps on the first day of the fourth Test against India in Nagpur yesterday.
Additional reporting by Staff writer