The last time Australia toured Sri Lanka, they won the Test series    Getty Images
The last time Australia toured Sri Lanka, they won the Test series Getty Images

Australia toured Sri Lanka for a Test series for the first time in 1983; and since then they have travelled to the island nation only four more times. After a gap of four years since their previous tour in 2011, Australia are set to play 3 Tests on Sri Lankan soil, starting Tuesday. Due to the lack of experience of playing in Sri Lanka it is not wrong to assume the conditions will be almost be alien for Steven Smith-led side that will walk in the field of Pallekele International Cricket Stadium to face a relatively inexperienced side of the hosts in the first of the 3-Test series. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Sri Lanka vs Australia, 1st Test at Kandy

The unavailability of most of the quality Sri Lankan bowlers might go on to hurt the hosts in this series. Dhammika Prasad and Dushmantha Chameera, who have played crucial roles in Sri Lanka’s bowling attack, have been sidelined with injuries. Keeping Australia’s failure in UAE and India in mind, the series will showcase the battle between Rangana Herath and the buoyant Australian batting line-up. A total of three uncapped spinners Lakshan Sandakan, Roshan Silva and Dhananjaya de Silva have been included in the squad. Two, or even three of them may join Herath’s army if given a chance in the playing XI. Herath will also find support in Dilruwan Perera, who has played 9 Tests for Sri Lanka.

Prasad, Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal had formed the nucleus of the Sri Lankan pace attack. With Chameera and Prasad injured and Eranga suspended for illegal action, Pradeep and Lakmal, who have a total of 48 Tests between them, will shoulder the responsibility of the pace department. They will be up against David Warner, Steven Smith and Shaun Marsh, the trio that have more than 100 Tests between them. The hosts also have the likes of Asitha Fernando and Vishwa Fernando, yet to represent their country in whites; this home series against the No. 1-ranked side will their Test career give a direction.

The England tour of Sri Lanka exposed the ordinary state of the Sri Lankan batting line-up following the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. The side is yet to recover from that, leaving skipper Angelo Mathews to regroup his side. The openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne, along with Mathews and the extremely talented Dinesh Chandimal, are the only hopes for Sri Lanka as far as scoring is concerned. READ: Steven Smith: Australia ready to take Sri Lanka challenge

While the Sri Lankans struggle to go as a unit, Australia are boosting confidence with the return of Warner, declared fit for the first Test. Warner averages more than 50 in Tests, and will be at the top of the Australian line-up consisting of Smith, Usman Khawaja, Marsh, Joe Burns and Adam Voges. Australia will play in whites after a gap of five months, their New Zealand tour earlier in 2016 being their last Test assignment.

Since the 2015 Australian summer, Smith and Co. have won twice against the Black Caps (home and away) and thrashed West Indies at home with a 2-0 win in the 3-Test series to rise to the top of the ICC Test rankings. Their bowling strength has only enhanced with the return of Mitchell Starc. He along with Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Marsh will form the pace attack of the visitors.

Meanwhile, the 10-wicket haul of Steve O’Keefe in the tour match has announced him as the perfect leg spin partner to Nathan Lyon. Lyon, of course, has fond memories of Sri Lanka: on his Test debut at Galle four years back, Lyon had dismissed Sangakkara with the first ball of his Test career, becoming the first Australian to achieve the feat since 1894-95.

Predictions: Regardless of the experience on the Sri Lankan conditions, Australia are clear favourites going into the first Test. They will field a full-strength side unlike the hosts, who are yet to find stable combinations in all departments. They have roped in some uncapped players, and the first Test will demonstrate if the decision is going to do them any good in the rest of the series.

Time: 10:00 IST| 04:30 GMT


Australia: Steven Smith (c), Peter Nevill (wk), David Warner, Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Asitha Fernando, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva, Kaushal Silva.

(Sakshi Gupta, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy.” Her Twitter handle is @sakshi2929)