Pallekele - Australian captain Steve Smith
named spin twins Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe in his line-up Monday for the
series opener against Sri Lanka as the newly-crowned kings of Test cricket look
to cement their supremacy.
On the day that Australia were presented
with the mace as the world number one side, Smith took the unusual move of
naming his starting XI a day before the start of the first Test in Pallekele,
Australia's rise up the rankings has been
based in large part on the performance of their fast bowlers such as Mitchell
Starc and Josh Hazlewood and they rarely field more than one spinner.
But after taking 10 wickets in a warm-up
last week, O'Keefe has been picked to play only his third Test alongside the
more experienced Nathan Lyon - his close friend and Sheffield Shield team-mate.
"Both our spinners bowled well in the
practice game. They have played lot of games for New South Wales and they are
close friends. It's going to be exciting," Smith told reporters in
Pallekele, on the outskirts of Kandy.
Australia have hired local spin legend
Muttiah Muralitharan as a consultant for the series, well aware of Sri Lanka's
reputation for producing turning pitches.
Smith said that cracks had already appeared
on the Pallekele strip which should also benefit Sri Lanka's premier spinner
"The wicket will take spin for sure
here. Not sure about the first innings, but it looks very dry and lots of
cracks on it. It certainly will help spin bowlers," Smith added.
"They (Sri Lanka) have some quality
spinners in their rank led by Rangana Herath. He has done really well in these
conditions. The batters need to have some good plans against him at what he is
going to bring at us."
Smith confirmed that vice-captain David
Warner will play after being sidelined for six weeks with a broken left index
Before training, Smith was presented with
the International Cricket Council Test Championship mace and $1 million in
prize money after his team finished at the top of the ICC rankings by the April
"It was great honour to accept the
Test mace as we are the number one team at this stage. Lot of hard work ahead
of us," he said.
"We are going to be hunted down as we
are number one and we need to work hard and stay on top."
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews
acknowledged that his new-look side would have to be at the top of their game
if they were to cause an upset.
"It's our home conditions but, as I
always say, we have to play our best cricket to win against the number one team
in the world," said Mathews.
"They've performed in and out of
Australia. They are a very consistent team and a strong unit."
Although Australia have a clear lead over
their main challengers, India, England and Pakistan could all theoretically
topple them from the top spot if Smith's lose against Sri Lanka and other
results go against them.
Mathews held back from naming his starting
XI and was instead cursing a new round of injury woes to an already depleted
Fast bowler Suranga Lakmal complained of a
stiff hamstring after training on Sunday before the uncapped Dhananjaya de
Silva hurt his finger during fielding drills, Mathews revealed.
Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Joe Burns, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Steve O'Keeffe, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges
Sri Lanka squad:
Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal