Having been narrowly beaten by South Africa in their recent test series, Australia will be looking for a confidence-boosting victory over three matches against visiting Sri Lanka (11.30pm GMT, Thursday).
The first game is in Hobart on Friday local time and the hosts have a new look line-up that will be without Ricky Ponting, who finally called time on his marathon career.
That may seem like a long set of odds on a positive win for the tourists but while this is an experienced Sri Lankan side, they traditionally perform poorly outside of their own country. Australia are rightful favourites but is there any value in considering an away win in this first match?
The Aussie batting looked solid in its three tests against South Africa and it had no problems in compensating for former skipper Ponting who had a disappointing run of form. The one concern may have been over the reliance on captain Michael Clarke who made two double hundreds in the opening games.
When Clarke performed, others batted around him and Ed Cowan, David Warner and Mike Hussey all made centuries in those games but when the skipper was dismissed cheaply in the final test, the batting crumbled. It’s clear that if the Sri Lankans are to get anything from this first contest then Clarke’s is the key wicket.
The tourists may also spot some vulnerability at number three where Phil Hughes has been recalled in place of the outgoing Ponting. Left handed Hughes is known as a powerful batsman who scores runs quickly in any form of the game but he also has a reputation for a distinct weakness outside of off stump.
New Zealand exploited that issue by having Hughes caught at slip, flashing at wide balls on a consistent basis and Sri Lanka will have also watched the videos from last summer. The question is, do the tourists have the attack to exploit any weak links?
With Ajantha Mendis still missing through injury, the focus from a bowling point of view will fall on Rangana Herath. The left arm spinner is a constant feature in the world’s top ten but he will need more support from an attack that features capable seamers such as Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara who struggle for penetration away from home.
Run scoring shouldn’t be a problem for a touring side who can field Mahela Jawayardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan in their top four. The vastly experienced trio rarely fail at any level of cricket and they are starting to receive better support from younger players such as Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal.
Australia’s bowling plans have been affected by long term injuries to first choice seamers Pat Cummins and James Pattinson and that’s another reason why the draw odds in particular look extremely tempting.
However, Sri Lanka are coming into this game without any warm up matches and it would be no surprise to see them start slowly in Hobart. As the tour progresses, they will improve but expect Australia to exploit that lack of preparation and take the first test.
This Preview’s Betting Tip: Take Australia to win at 8/13 with BetVictor.