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Australia name playing XI for second Test at Galle

Australia Jon Holland
Australian cricket team. (Photo by ISHARA S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia skipper Steven Smith has confirmed the Playing XI for the second Test at Galle. As expected, the Australians have gone for a like-for-like replacement of Jon Holland, bringing him in for injured Steven O’Keefe. Apart from this one change, the rest of the team remains the same.

After seeking Muttiah Muralitharan’s help for the first test at Kandy, the Australians boosted their preparations for the second test with the help of South African pace bowling legend Allan Donald. Donald, who is now working as the interim fast bowling coach for Australia during this two-month Test and limited-overs tour, has been sharing his experience with the pace attack, sharing the tricks of how to bowl on the sub-continent tracks.

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The Galle track is expected to be dry and slow giving plenty of opportunity to use the reverse swing. The Aussies have the right men to exploit this advantage but the Lankans look handicapped in that area.  Skipper Steven Smith also feels that believes that Australia’s fast bowling stocks remain a clear point of difference between the teams. Smith expects that Sri Lanka will enter this Test, as they did in the series opener at Pallekele, with only two front-line seamers.

The fact that Australia’s seamers accounted for four of Sri Lanka’s top six batters in both innings at Pallekele adds credence to the Australia captain’s theory, and the prospect of conventional swing with the new ball then reverse swing with the older one carries considerable appeal.

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“It would be nice to see the ball reversing this game,” Smith said after his quicks engaged in a lengthy session to familiarise themselves with the weather and pitch conditions.

“They (Sri Lanka) are not going to have too many guys that are going to be able to reverse the ball, so I guess that’s a point of difference.

“The guys we’ll have playing (Starc, Hazlewood and Marsh) bowl good pace as well, and that also is a bit of a point of difference. Hopefully, we can exploit that with their batters a little bit.”

Donald spent almost an hour working with pace bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Coulter-Nile during an extended centre wicket session during Australia’s major pre-Test training run at Galle yesterday.

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“He said the ball reversed quite significantly from both ends (in 2014),” Smith told reporters in the seaside city today as he recounted the insights that Donald brought to the Australians whose previous visit to Galle five years ago delivered their only Test win in Asia for the past decade.

“Morkel had it going away from the right-handers and Steyn had it going into the right-handers, so we’ve got Starc who can do (away swing to right-handers) and Hazlewood can do (in swing).

“And Mitchell Marsh bowls good reverse swing as well, so we’ve got the bases covered, it’s just about going out there and making sure we do the right things this Test match.”

Smith believes that his team will be better equipped to cope with the previously unseen Sandakan now that they’ve had a chance to study him close up, and that the work they’ve undertaken facing left-arm finger spinners in the nets over recent days will help them counter Herath.

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Most of Herath’s nine wickets at Pallekele were a result of players pushing forward thinking the ball would spin sharply from leg stump to off (for the right handers) only to find it going straight on, past the inside of the bat and on to the pad or the stumps.

“It’s obviously different to batting against spin back home (in Australia), you can trust the bounce and trust what the ball’s going to do,” Smith said.

“Looking at the dismissals in the first Test match, the balls that skid on are generally not half volleys, they’re generally pretty good length balls.

“In saying that, it’s hard to sometimes distinguish which ball’s going to skid and which ball’s going to spin, so it’s about trying to get the bowlers off their lengths as much as you can, and make them a little bit uncomfortable.”

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“But at the same time, if they do get in a good rhythm and you are playing from the crease, particularly against someone like Rangana, it’s about playing for that ball that is going to skid on. If it spins and you nick one, so be it. But we didn’t lose any wickets on the outside of the bat in the last Test match, so I think you can live with that.”

Australia XI: Warner, Burns, Khawaja, Smith (c), Voges, M Marsh, Nevill (wk), Starc, Hazlewood, Holland, Lyon.

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