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Aust cricketers tackle subcontinent hoodoo

AAP logoAAP 25/07/2016 Will Knight

Australia are the No.1-ranked Test nation, while Sri Lanka are coming off a winless tour of England.

Mitchell Starc is back from injury to spearhead the Australian attack, while Sri Lanka are missing three of their best pacemen to injury and suspension.

Australia's top-five batsmen average 50 and have scored heavily over the last 12 months, while Sri Lanka have struggled for big totals since the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Australia have only lost one Test to Sri Lanka in 26 matches.

Australia should steamroll Sri Lanka in the three-Test series starting in Kandy on Tuesday - right?

They are certainly red-hot favourites.

However, consider this. In the last 15 Tests in away Test series in India and Sri Lanka, as well as against Pakistan in the UAE, Australia have won only once.

The good news for Australia is that victory came in Sri Lanka, on their last tour of the island nation, in 2011.

That series remains Australia's only successful campaign in Asia since beating Bangladesh in 2006.

Only three of Australia's 15-man squad - Nathan Lyon, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh - have experienced Test cricket in Sri Lanka and eight have never played five-day cricket on the subcontinent.

It's why Australia have had a relatively long preparation and hired Test cricket's greatest wicket-taker and Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan to help prepare them for the conditions.

Usually aggressive with both bat and ball, Australia are preparing to get into an arm wrestle with the Angelo Mathews-led Sri Lankans.

"I think just playing in these conditions you have to be more adaptable to play different tempos of the game," said Australia skipper Steve Smith.

"Playing in Australia you can be attacking quite a lot of the time, but in these conditions you have to have that defensive sort of mindset at the same time - building some pressure, being nice and patient, and when the ball starts doing something whether it's turning or reverse swinging or the new ball that swings, then you can start attacking."

When it comes to blunting Sri Lanka's bowling attack, who will rely heavily on veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, Smith believes a clear strategy is vital.

"It's about making sure you have a plan from ball one," he said.

"And each individual is different. I've seen a lot of the guys practising the sweep shot, guys coming down the wicket, batting deep in the crease and things like that.

"I think that's how you have to play on the subcontinent.

"There'll be times when they want to attack and you might get more scoring options and times when they want to be a bit more defensive.

"The guys know what to expect, we've trained really hard being here the past two weeks in Sri Lanka and we're ready to go."

AUSTRALIA'S RECENT AWAY TESTS AGAINST SRI LANKA, INDIA AND PAKISTAN

2014 v Pakistan (in United Arab Emirates) - two-Test series lost 2-0

2013 v India - four-Test series lost 4-0

2011 v Sri Lanka - three-Test series won 1-0

2010 v India - two-Test series lost 2-0

2008 v India - four-Test series lost 2-0

AUSTRALIA'S TEST RECORD AGAINST SRI LANKA

Played: 26 Won: 17 Lost: 1 Drawn: 8

* Only Test loss was by six wickets in Kandy in 1999, the match infamous for Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie colliding in the outfield, which caused them to miss the second innings

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