With hit and giggle over the real stuff commences and this author is somewhat buoyed ahead of an important series between Sri Lanka and Australia. Obviously the 20/20s tell little if anything but perhaps the ODIs provide a little information. With regard to batting the top order have significant time to build an innings; with this in mind it appears Watson has carried on and Ponting has found some touch. Clarke has also batted well which bodes well as those who have played in the subcontinent will be pivotal in providing advice on how to handle slow and low pitches. Of course, a factor to consider is the different fields set in ODIs and so gleanings from such games must be made with caution.
In terms of bowling two chief pacers in Bollinger and Lee aren't in the test squad anyway but for mine the most important bowler will be the spinner. If the spinner gets whacked and can't bowl 1/3 of the innings' overs then the quicks will tire and Aus will be in the field for two days at a time chasing leather hit by Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan. I'm picking Lyon as the man Clarke goes to; if for no other reason than because Aus have a habit now of picking the last guy you'd expect.
Aus will no doubt be happy Malinga doesn't play tests anymore but it was always going to be Herath/Mendis who held the key. Samaraweera is a quality batsman and could surprise many by scoring shed loads from 5 or 6. Pattison should have played more than just the 1 ODI but we can expect him to play in the 3 day warm-up game (yes, only one!). Copeland is likely to get a guernesy too with Johnson rested so the pace attack for the first test will be Johnson, Harris and either Pattison or Copeland with Siddle an outsider (of course I could be wrong). Not fair on Sids but he may well be the journey man for his whole career. The problem with having such a different bowling lineup between the ODIs and test squads - coupled with only 1 practice game - is few opportunities for bowlers to get used to conditions. How they bowl is more important than how many wickets they get and Copeland, Siddle, Pattison and Harris have precious little time to understand where you bowl in the subcontinent. India has just learnt the hard way the cost of not acclimatising appropriately. Noone has an excuse after England's preparation leading into the last summer's Ashes and the results were there for all to see.
Sri Lanka are always hard to beat at home and will look forward to putting their tour of England behind them. Aus have many young players starting their career in Kahawaja and the bowlers already mentioned. We can expect at least one draw so gaining the ascendancy is all-important and then driving the advantage home paramount. I'm tipping 1 all with Sri Lanka winning the 2nd and Aus the third. I've barely touched on Hughes/Marsh/Kahwaja but this can be done by others. Hussey? I've stopped talking about him nowadays. He just responds with tons and I don't believe this tour will be any different.
Down the Wicket