PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Australia and Sri Lanka will hold back on naming their sides for the second match of their three-test series in Kandy on Thursday until after they have both had a chance to survey the conditions of a relatively unknown Pallekele stadium pitch.
Australia can wrap up the series with a victory after winning the opening match by 125 runs on a difficult pitch in Galle last week, and both captains are prepared to play the waiting game at a venue hosting just its second ever test.
“The team could change in Kandy depending on what conditions we get,” Australia captain Michael Clarke said soon after the Galle win, his first as captain.
Home skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan will also announce his line-up late, and is hoping his side can recover after they were dismissed for 105 in the first innings and were 68-5 in the second before a big sixth-wicket stand salvaged some pride.
“I want to see the wicket and then we will decide who is going to play,” Dilshan said.
“It’s difficult to recover when you are beaten in the first game of a series in that fashion. We made the same mistake in England but we have to learn from it and improve for the second test.”
Sri Lanka suffered a dramatic collapse on the final day to lose the first test in England earlier this year but battled well in the remaining two matches to earn two draws in a 1-0 series defeat.
Australia will be forced to make one change, however, as batsman and former skipper Ricky Ponting has opted to return home to be present when his wife gives birth to their second child.
Clarke showed glimpses of his best form with a battling 60 at Galle, and he and Michael Hussey, who scored a man-of-the-match 95 in the first innings, will shoulder the burden of responsibility for the tourists’ batting.
Despite fielding an inexperienced attack, Clarke would have been buoyed by the successful test debuts of Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon, who took five wickets in the first innings, who both gave Sri Lanka’s strong batting line-up plenty of problems.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will be desperate for a change of fortune as they aim for a first victory in 10 tests since world record wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan retired from the longer form of the game in July last year.
Mahela Jayawardene, who recorded his 29th test century, and the 95 runs scored by all-rounder Angelo Mathews were the only positive batting performances in Galle, while Rangana Herath was the pick of the bowlers with match figures of 8-133.
Sri Lanka may opt to replace right arm spinner Suraj Randiv with Ajantha Mendis for the Kandy much but know their batting needs to improve dramatically if they are to give Australia a contest.