Aussies depart for world No.1 defence

Australians en route to Sri Lanka ready to defend their ranking as the No.1 Test team

Australia's Test stars have boarded the Qantas jet and are en route to Sri Lanka for the first tour of the subcontinent island nation since 2011.

The three Test series starts on July 26 in the mountain city of Kandy, with the Aussies facing a week of intense training and a three-day practice match in Colombo first.

Players are converging on the Sri Lankan capital from around the globe, with the bulk of Australia's Test squad flying out of various home ports this afternoon.

Australia's world No.1 Test ranking is on the line in Sri Lanka, with Steve Smith's men having reached the summit against New Zealand earlier this year.

But the coveted No.1 spot could be taken out of Australia's hands: should Pakistan, led by returning seam-bowling sensation Mohammad Amir, manage an unlikely clean sweep of England on their tour of the UK, then Misbah-ul-Haq's side would claim top spot, no matter what result Australia achieve in Sri Lanka.

And with India also eyeing off valuable rankings points having arrived in the Carribean for their own three-Test series, there is a log-jam at the top.

Even England could potentially claim top spot, but Alastair Cook's team would need to not only sweep aside Pakistan 4-0, they would rely on Australia being unable to force a result in any of their three Tests.

Australia's players took to social media today to share their departure pictures and farewells, with family farewells featuring heavily.

Departure would have been especially bittersweet for batsman Shaun Marsh – the Western Australian is returning to the scene of his memorable Test debut again pushing for a chance to wear the Baggy Green but leaving behind newborn baby son, Austin Ross.

Pop, dad and little Austin :) @swampy355

A photo posted by Shaun Marsh (@shaunmarsh9) on

Today is also Marsh's 32nd birthday, and that was an open invitation for younger brother and serial prankster Mitchell to take the mickey with some creative camera lens filtering.

Happy birthday my brother. Can't wait to be back on tour with you! #srilanka

A video posted by @mitchmarsh235 on

Australia's No.3 batsman Usman Khawaja was departing Sydney and took the opportunity to signal he would be wielding some new kit in Sri Lanka.

No airport social media from vice-captain David Warner, who was last seen hard at work in the gym under instructions from his ironwoman wife, Candice.

Only the pain of a hard workout can save you from the agony of defeat. @davidwarner31 @titanfitness_au

A video posted by Mrs Candice Warner (@candywarner1) on

Warner's fellow opener, Queenslander Joe Burns, posted a picture of his Baggy Green and spoke of his "goosebumps" packing the cap for another Test tour.

Burns was one of a small group of players not involved in Australia's one-day team to leave for the subcontinent early, and has been training at the MRF Pace Foundation with Glenn McGrath in Chennai.

Also in Chennai with Burns have been spinner Stephen O'Keefe, seam bowler Jackson Bird and wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, who described packing his cricket kit as akin to playing Tetris.

Nevill and O'Keefe posted a joint picture in Chennai, where the spinner convinced Nevill to don a hoodie despite the 40C Chennai heat – all in the name of charity.

Bird will no doubt arrive in Sri Lanka feeling inspired having spent a week in Chennai with McGrath, whom he described as "one of the all-time greats and an idol of mine growing up".

Fellow fast bowler Mitchell Starc and Australia's No.1 off-spinner Nathan Lyon were aothers to post images of their kit as they prepared to depart.

2 little girls wanted to come on tour today!! #harperlyon #millalyon #srilankabound

A photo posted by Nathan Lyon (@nath.lyon421) on

The pair were on board early with adjoining seats and eager to get the tour started

Sri Lanka bound... catch you in a couple months... #travelbuddy #goat

A photo posted by Mitch Starc (@mstarc56) on

Flying in from abroad was skipper Steve Smith, who took time out after the Caribbean tri-series victory to spend some time in the United States with his partner, Dani Willis.

They had been in Boston, where Smith wowed Red Sox fans with a blistering ceremonial first pitch before moving on to New York.

Was a great trip to Boston with @dani_willis had a great day out at #fenwaypark what a beautiful city!

A photo posted by Steve Smith (@steve_smith49) on

Allrounder Moises Henriques, who recently spoke of his eagerness to repay selectors' faith and will push for his first Test since playing in India in mid-2013, spent his last days at home hanging out with his Golden Retriever, Moreton. 


A photo posted by Moises Henriques (@mozzie21) on

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Stephen O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges

Meg Lanning Steve Smith