Smith confident of improving poor Asia stats


Australia captain Steve Smith is confident of being able to win the Test series against Sri Lanka, starting in Pallekele on Tuesday, because they have had nearly three weeks to acclimatise to the conditions.

The Aussies have a poor record on the sub-continent over the past decade, winning just one Test in eight years, having had a particular weakness when batting against spin.

But this time, helped by Sri Lanka being very poor in recent months, Smith is sure his team will triumph, as they've been working hard in Colombo over the past weeks, with the help of former spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Smith said on the CA website: "There's a good reason why we've had such a long lead-in before the first Test begins at Pallekele on Tuesday.

"That's because we haven't performed all that well in subcontinental conditions over recent years, having won just one Test out of the past 15 we've played since 2008, and that's something we're very keen to turn around.

"It's been a good lead-in, with a three-day warm-up game against a Sri Lankan XI in Colombo where all the batters were able to spend some time in the middle even though our opponents probably didn't bowl as many overs of spin as we were anticipating.

"So when they weren't in the middle, they were working hard in the nets with Sri Lankan legend Murali and our Indian fielding and spin coach 'Sri' (Sridharan Sriram), which was very beneficial."

This is Smith's first time  leading the team in Asia, having taken over from Michael Clarke as Test skipper last year, and he has given his tactics a lot of thought, especially concerning the condition of the ball.

He added: "As captain leading my first Test tour in subcontinental conditions, I'm hopeful that we can learn a lot from the way that we've played on these sorts of pitches previously and change the things that haven't worked for us.

"I've got a few different ideas of how to approach things as captain, and they revolve around the different way the components of the game get broken up in conditions like Sri Lanka, India and the UAE.

"For example, the ball can swing quite a lot when it's new but once the shine is off and it stops moving then that's probably one of the best times to bat, while the ball is still hard.

"So in that phase of the game, as the bowling captain, you need to be a bit more defensive with your field placements to try and slow that scoring and build pressure on the batters.

"But then the ball can suddenly to reverse swing or spin a bit, so then you can start attacking to make the most of that shift, and if no results are coming then you have to be prepared to go back to your defensive plans and try to get breakthroughs that way.

"The challenge is in finding the right mix of strategies, and the right times to be attacking and then to pull back and be defensive.

"For me, as captain, it's really important to recognise instinctively when those moments arrive, to be really adaptable to make sure we seize them when they come and don't allow the game to drift.

"I know it will be a real challenge, but I think we're ready to go."