Cricket 2 years ago

Aust bowlers flex muscle in 1st Lanka Test

  • Aust bowlers flex muscle in 1st Lanka Test

    Australian cricketers warm up during a practice session at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele on July 24, 2016. Australia plays three Tests against the Sri Lanka, with the first starting in Pallekele on July 26. / AFP / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia's bid to keep a grip on their No.1 Test ranking is due to start on Tuesday but rain is threatening to play a big part in their first match against Sri Lanka in Kandy.

The Steve Smith-captained Australia are hot favourites to dominate the home side, who head into the clash following a dismal tour of England and with a young and inexperienced line-up.

Sri Lanka have only ever won one Test against Australia in 26 encounters - that 1999 victory in Kandy infamous for the sickening collision between Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie in the outfield as they ran for a catch.

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However, Australia have been woeful in recent times in the sub-continent, racking up a solitary victory in the last 15 Tests across away series in India and Sri Lanka, as well as on similarly dry and big-spinning wickets in the UAE against Pakistan.

The good news for the tourists is that one win came in Sri Lanka, on their last tour of the island nation in 2011.

The bad news is that there is a high chance of thunderstorms forecast for the first four days of the first Test.

They're well prepared for rain in Pallekele, with massive blue covers not only taking care of the wicket square, but stretching across just about the entire outfield.

Rain has marred all four of the Test matches played at the venue, including Australia's clash in 2011 when day-five showers helped Sri Lanka salvage a draw.

Time will tell what effect any rain and associated humidity have on the pitch, which was described by Smith as dry and prompted the inclusion of left-arm spinner Stephen O'Keefe in Australia's XI over paceman Jackson Bird.

On Monday, Smith received the ICC Test championship mace and US$1 million in prize money from ICC CEO David Richardson after Australia claimed the No.1 ranking by the annual April 1 cut-off date.

"Winning away from home has often been a challenge for us, especially in sub-continental conditions, but this is something we are looking to change in this upcoming series against Sri Lanka," said Smith.

Australia recorded 10 Test victories in 15 matches over the 12-month period.

To stay at the top of the tree, Australia need to beat Sri Lanka by 1-0 or better.

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