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Boof lauds ODI stars for turning tour

After the 3-0 Test series whitewash, Darren Lehmann praised Australia's one-day players for reversing their Sri Lanka tour fortunes

Perhaps it is the sheer volume of cricket that Australia’s white-ball specialists find themselves contesting all around the world, all through the year.

Or maybe it’s the format of the abbreviated game that compels batters to think more quickly on their feet and find options to score in spite of the conditions and the opposition as the inevitably intractable 50-over deadline looms large.

But Australia coach Darren Lehmann has pointed to the capacity of those players who were added to his squad for the recent ODI Series - after his men were humbled in all three of the preceding Tests – to adapt quickly and seamlessly as pivotal in halting their losing run.

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While the world’s top-ranked Test team (as they were at tour’s outset) were unable to find a place for any batter in the top three runs scorers in the battle for Warne-Muralidaran Trophy, that was a markedly different story come the five-match ODI tournament.

Where four of the six heaviest scorers were Australian, and three of those – George Bailey, Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch – were not part of the 15-man Test squad that was found so sorely wanting against Sri Lanka’s spinners on pitches that seemed as alien as the lunar surface.

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“Credit to the one-day players coming in and playing a different way in the way they played spin,” Lehmann said today as his team readied itself for the final match of their nine-week tour, a T20 International at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium.

“And they adapted probably quicker than our Test blokes, that’s just an honest appraisal.

“Everyone knows that, it’s pretty much results driven.

“We’ve played very well in the one-day format on very similar wickets (to the Test series), they’re slow and have spun, so it’s been a good performance by the one-day boys.”

One of those “boys who” also placed himself in the top 10 runs scorers for the ODI Series that Australia ultimately won 4-1 was South Australia captain, Travis Head.

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The former Australia Under-19 captain arrived in Sri Lanka having cut short a planned stint with English county Yorkshire, boasting only a pair of T20 Internationals and a solitary ODI to his name.

But despite his preparation in vastly different conditions to what he found awaiting in Asia, the 22-year-old acquitted himself with maturity and proficiency by setting a new personal best with each of his first four ODI innings in Australia’s middle-order.

Touted as one of those young talents who might be charged with redressing Australia’s abject recent Test record in Asia, Head has impressed the coach who is also a national selector.

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“Trav getting experience has been really important for us, he’s a young player who’s up and coming and he’s learning very quickly,” Lehmann said of his fellow South Australian.

“The only way you learn is by playing in these conditions, and hopefully playing some games at home as well.

“So I’m really impressed with the young man and the way he’s gone about it, I thought he was very good with Glenn (Maxwell in their 109-run stand in last Sunday’s opening T20I) the other night to finish off the innings.

“So the more chances we can give those guys in these one-day series, the better off we’re going to be long-term.”

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Head is part of the 15-man squad for the ODI Tour to South Africa that begins in less than a fortnight, so will receive more of those chances in conditions that will present an altogether different challenge to Sri Lanka.

On seaming pitches against a pace attack led by one of the game’s all-time greats, Dale Steyn.

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And while selection chair Rod Marsh described the 3-0 Test series loss to Sri Lanka as a “blip” and counselled against wholesale panic in framing the XI for the next Test encounter against South Africa in Perth in early November, Lehmann has added a timely caveat.

That every match a player scores when wearing national colours, regardless of the format or location of that contest, will be considered to be of consequence when future teams are being debated.

As the Test team for the start of the Australia summer will be in the wake of the Qantas Tour of South Africa and the opening (day-night) round of Sheffield Shield fixtures.

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“We (the selectors) have been very clear that you’ve still got to make runs in each and every game you play, and make runs at the start of the (home) summer,” Lehmann said in relation to the philosophy that will be employed in naming Australia’s next Test team in just over a month.

“So it will come down to performance, as it normally does, but also conditions (at the venue that Test will held) and the way you play in Australia.

“You select the best 11 to play in any conditions, whether it’s Perth or Chennai or Mumbai or Lord’s.

“That will change the 11 (that takes the field) but an even squad is what you’re after and then you can chop and change when you’re away and (depending on) the conditions that are in front of you.”

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