x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Australia are still ‘tough’

Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, is expecting Australia to shrug off their indifferent form and provide stern opposition in their forthcoming limited-overs series.

Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, is expecting Australia to shrug off their indifferent form and provide stern opposition in their forthcoming limited-overs series.

Australia play India today in the second of three one-day internationals (ODIs) while Sri Lanka are in Queensland preparing for the one-off Twenty20 encounter and then three ODIs starting on October 31.

"[The goal is to] hopefully get a victory in the series, and that will be great for us going forward," Sangakkara said.

"We know how tough it is to tour Australia, we've been here before and we're yet to win, so this is a great challenge for the guys that we've been looking forward to."

In the past 10 ODIs between the sides Sri Lanka have come out on top just twice, and though much has changed since the teams met last in 2008, Australia's psychological hold may take some breaking.

Having been on the wrong side of results over much of the last decade, Sangakkara has plenty of respect for the Australia squad and said that their patchy form in India would in no way alter his outlook on the challenge ahead.

"We know that playing the Aussies in Australia is a completely different story," he said.

"For us it's a great challenge to play Australia at any time. Whatever dent in their confidence or any other thing that's negative for the Australians is great for the opposition, but we know how tough the Aussies are.

"That's the great thing about playing them, if you back them into a corner they come out fighting harder. We expect nothing but the Aussies at their best."

As captain, wicketkeeper, and Sri Lanka's most valuable batsman, Sangakkara has plenty to juggle, but that does not mean he is losing sight of individual improvement. Instead the left-hander says his aim for the tour is to turn good scores into great scores.

"I've been getting starts - 50s, 60s - and not managed to convert them into many 100s," he said.

Meanwhile, Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, has warned Nathan Hauritz that it is up to him to take the initiative if he wants to rise through the Australia ranks.

Hauritz had a poor run during Australia's 2-0 Test series loss against India, but Shane Warne, the great leg-spinner, blamed Ricky Ponting's fielding placements for the off-spinner's form.

Nielsen told the Sydney Morning Herald: "Haury has got people he talks to about his bowling. I know he's had some discussions with Warnie in the past. If Warnie is available and Haury would like to speak to him I can't see any reason they wouldn't have a chat."

He added: "In the end, that's a great little resource to utilise, but it's more important that Haury identifies the things he needs to improve and we identify as a team the things we need to improve, and go about fixing them.

"We can't expect someone to come in and fix the ills of the game for us. It's about us saying 'Yes, I need to get better at this', and working our backsides off at training."

* Press Association