Australian’s best chance of halting Sri Lanka’s charge to a 3-0 Test series whitewash in Colombo is relatively simple: be more like them.
The hosts have already assured themselves of getting their hands on the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy for the first time with two emphatic wins in Kandy and Galle, and they’ll take all the momentum into the third Test starting on Saturday in the capital.
Sri Lanka have ruthlessly dismantled the No.1-ranked tourists and Australian skipper Steve Smith believes his side can learn a lot from the home side’s approach.
“If you just sit there and try and defend all day, one will eventually have your name on it.” – Steve Smith
Bowling-wise, Australia’s spinners Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland need to try to bowl with greater variation, perhaps paradoxically with the delivery that doesn’t spin buts skids on to bring more lbw and bowled dismissals into play.
Their rival finger spinners Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera have used side-spin with great effect and it is a major reason why Australia’s highest score in the series so far is 203 in the first innings of the first Test.
Smith was impressed with what he saw from Holland in the nets as Australia trained for the first time on Thursday at Sinhalese Sports Club.
“In Australia, he gets over (the ball) and gets good drop,” Smith noted of the Victorian who endured a tough Test debut in Galle.
“He’s dropped his arm path a little bit since being here.
“He’s getting around the ball which I think is crucial for these conditions. It looks like the seam he’s presenting looks a lot harder to play.”
Strike turnover a key
In the batting department, Australia will again look to emulate Angelo Mathews’ team by attempting to rotate the strike – even if it requires taking a risk – to break the bowlers’ rhythm.
Even on the dry deck of Galle, Sri Lanka’s batsmen were able to craft shots that meant they scored at almost four runs an over.
“Finding ways to get off strike and know where your boundaries are as well,” Smith said when asked how his side would approach batting in the third Test.
“I guess that’s something that the Sri Lankan batters have done pretty well. They have swept our spinners well, have reverse swept our spinners for boundaries. It has been difficult to contain them.”
To be successful on Asian wickets that are so unlike the bouncy and more-consistent pitches in Australia, Smith insists it’s pointless to drop the anchor and defend.
“We’ve spoken about … being proactive in our thinking,” said Smith.
“We saw at times in the second innings (in Galle) when we got a few away, they put the fielders out and, the longer you spend out there, the easier it gets.
“If you just sit there and try and defend all day, one will eventually have your name on it.”
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – time will tell if Australia can mimic what’s been so successful for Sri Lanka and avoid slumping to their ninth consecutive defeat away to sub-continental teams since March 2013.