Australia's pace advantage in the Hobart test can be nullified if the Sri Lankans can better exploit the anticipated helpful conditions, Kumar Sangakkara believes.
No members of Sri Lanka's seam bowling attack, to be led by Nuwan Kulasekara, will come close to matching the pace generated by the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in Australia's preceding series against South Africa, nor that of Australians Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson. Kulasekara is expected to be supported by Shaminda Eranga and left-armer Chanaka Welegedara.
Sangakkara has not played a test at Bellerive Oval for five years but, having watched Australia's matches since then, is in a good position to anticipate conditions for the series opener starting on Friday.
''There's been a bit of nibble about but it's been sporting to both sides. Wickets like this make fast bowlers really enthusiastic to play, and it elevates guys who don't have that much pace ... really good. If it stays the same I think our fast bowlers will have a really good chance against the Aussie batsmen,'' Sangakkara said on Tuesday.
''I think there's a place up for grabs [in the pace attack]. We've got Angelo Mathews batting at six and doing the all-rounder's job for us.
''I think 'Kula' [Kulasekara] is our No 1 fast bowler. He moves the ball and on a wicket like this a little bit of swing and seam will suit him ideally. Eranga has bowled really well. We've got Dhammika Prasad and Welegedara, all these guys are good with the moving ball.
''We don't have the out-and-out pace that the Aussies might have but we have the skill.''
Lanky Australian seamer Starc similarly said he was expecting bowler-friendly pitch conditions, especially for the team that got the first chance in the field.
''It's a bit green. The way it's been playing this [season] the first innings a lot of wickets fall, and then in the second innings there's more runs scored and in third and fourth it's played out nicely,'' Starc said. ''They've obviously relaid the square and it's played differently this year. As long as we stick to our strengths ... I'm sure we'll do well.''
Starc said he and his fellow seamers had undergone an in-depth review of their expensive bowling effort in Perth and were confident they would remedy their flaws. He also backed the claims of swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, who missed the Perth test, to return for his maiden home Test at Bellerive Oval.
''He's obviously a class bowler and I'm sure he'll come out and go well again. I said a couple of weeks ago if 'Hilfy' doesn't come out and take five-for someone's on his back ... you can't just pick apart his performance after one match.''
Sangakkara said Sri Lanka would put particular effort into snaring the wickets of captain Michael Clarke and No 6 batsman Mike Hussey cheaply. ''We know how dangerous [David] Warner can be. [Ed] Cowan has come a long way and is pretty solid,'' the veteran said. ''It's Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey who really solidify that middle order. With 'Punter' [Ricky Ponting] retiring it leaves a big hole and really big shoes to fill.
''I think if we can get into that middle order quite quickly with the new ball, it will be interesting. But getting there is the key.''
Sangakkara also said he and the rest of Sri Lanka's ''older brigade'' were keen to overcome the team's record of having never won a test in Australia in 10 attempts.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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