THE first Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka which starts in Hobart tomorrow is a new start for Australia.
Wounds will have been licked and players will be ready to take on a side that should offer little concern to our star studded, but still not totally proven line-up, a team that less than a month ago was challenging for the number one spot in the world. It now must start its challenge for that position again.
Apart from Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, along with spinner Rangan Herath, there are few name players in the Sri Lankan outfit which features a virtually unknown top order and a pop gun bowling attack.
If Australia lets its pride get in the way, it could be headed for a fall. However, the standard of cricket played in the South Africa series suggests that Australia should dismantle this outfit from the tiny isle.
The first foray of the summer saw Australia take it up to the number one Test nation in a series that was reminiscent of the 1992-1993 series against the West Indies. A series in which Shane Warne established himself as a true star.
Australia, on the cusp of knocking over the world’s number one team, came to Adelaide knowing that a win was necessary if it was to take the series.
Allan Border’s men knew that there was no way they would defeat the West Indies on the faster Perth track that followed Adelaide, it was a prescient prediction.
At the time, the Baggy Green men failed to take all of the chances presented to them – a must against the top side in the world, a battle hardened outfit proud of its place and determined to keep itself on top.
In the recently completed series against the Proteas Australia failed to take the critical opportunities that were presented to dull the South African fire.
Australia willed itself into a winning position in Brisbane but failed to take a sharp chance off iron willed skipper Graeme Smith early in the South African innings.
It was a little discussed moment but the removal of Smith earlier would have opened up the South African order sooner for the likes of Siddle and Pattinson.
Then, there was the final day in Adelaide, where requiring just six wickets, Australia failed to run through the Proteas’ line-up as predicted.
Those moments will have burned in the gullet of the Australian players as Perth was most likely never going to bring a home victory against a quality Proteas attack intent on holding its place at the top.
On that last day in Adelaide, Michael Clarke, if he had a sense of history, would have thrown an old cricket ball into the floor of the changerooms, as his legendary predecessor Allan Border did after the West Indies loss.
Unlike the great AB, Clarke has an opportunity to once again take the coveted top spot in world cricket, this series will provide the launching pad that Australia needs to pursue that gilded chalice.
* Rob McLean is the editor of www.wickettowicket.com.au, the home turf of grassroots cricket.