Cricket Australia Items/news/2013/1/10/good-start-crucial-for-sri-lanka

Good start crucial for Sri Lanka

UPDATED 06 February, 2013 10:13AM AEST | by Patrick Sexton, Omnisport 1

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene believes it will be vital to get a good result in Friday's opening ODI at the MCG.

The visitors were comfortably beaten by Australia in the recently completed three-match Test series and will be eager to erase that memory with a good showing in the five-game ODI series.

And with Sri Lanka ringing the changes to their one-day squad, Jayawardene is confident the new-look team can turn around Sri Lanka's fortunes against Australia starting with victory on Friday.

"It's very important I think (to get a good start). We are disappointed with the Test series," he said before their final training session on Thursday.

"I think we move on from that MCG Boxing Day Test match and the one-days (are) a good opportunity for us to start fresh, Melbourne is a pretty good hunting ground for us.

"So we just need to make sure that we start well tomorrow whether it be with the bat or the ball and try and keep that pressure going for the Australians.

"(We're) happy in patches about how we've come back in Sydney so if we can try and keep a bit of momentum going that way and obviously we've had about eight changes into our squad, new guys coming in, so that brings freshness to the entire squad.

"We've had a chat how we want to go about this series so the first game becomes very important."

Sri Lanka were facing an injury crisis following the Test series with a number of players, including former captain Kumar Sangakkara, forced out of the one-dayers.

But the visitors will be buoyed by the recoveries of pacemen Nuwan Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga, who Jayawardene confirmed will be up for selection if they get through their final training session.

"We haven't finalised (the team) but the two quicks who had the niggles, Kulasekara and Eranga, both are pretty fit, both bowled yesterday (at training) so we'll let them go through their bowling routines today and make a call after that," he said.

With Australian captain George Bailey confirming on Thursday ODI debutants Aaron Finch, Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja will make up the top three in the batting order the Sri Lankans could be forgiven for being complacent in their approach.

Jayawardene, however, has little doubt the three newcomers will be no pushovers despite their inexperience at the top level, warning his side they must be on top of their game from the outset.

"They're pretty much in pretty good form, that's probably why they got the call up so we need to make sure we're not complacent thinking 'OK, they are inexperienced,'" he said.

"We just need to make sure that we see areas where we can exploit and try and execute some game plans and see whether we can get an early advantage but we just need to make sure that we start well and whether it be with the ball or with the bat and have a good game."

Sri Lanka's own squad is also filled with inexperienced players and Jayawardene believes the exposure to Australian conditions they will receive over the series will hold them in good stead as attention starts to turn towards preparing for the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

"It's a very young squad. I think after the last World Cup we've gone in that direction when we came to Australia for the triangular (series) as well last year we had a very young team," he said.

"(Dinesh) Chandimal, (Lahiru) Thirimanne, all those guys are regulars in the one-day team so going forward you need to look at that (the World Cup). It's in about another two years time so all those guys will be looked.

"Obviously the couple of young spinners we've bought in, Ajantha (Mendis) is coming back after an injury layout, Akila (Dhananjaya) is here as well so those guys will get the exposure they require to bowl in these wickets."

The series will be Jayawardene's last as captain and while he is looking forward to the occasion the 386-game ODI veteran is refusing to place any pressure on his side to send him off on a winning note.

"It'll be great. The last time we won a series here was under Kumar when we came before the World Cup. Since then we've had a lot of success in Australia the guys are really keen to try and finish this series off on a high note hopefully so it'll be great."

"I'm not putting any pressure on the boys on that aspect of it just because it's my last series as captain. We just need to make sure we hit our strides and get a good start and try (to) enjoy our cricket, that's the most important thing."

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 10 January, 2013 5:19PM AEST

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