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If you can open, you can bat anywhere
Michael Slater
16:00 AEST Thu Dec 13 2012

In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Michael Slater
  Have your say on the Test series

Australia faces Sri Lanka in a three-Test series which should give them the perfect opportunity to develop a new batting line-up, as they head into the post-Ricky Ponting era. Sri Lanka are a talented bunch who entertain with the bat, field brilliantly and always lift their performances for the big challenges, but Australia should win the series and win comfortably.

Selectors have gone with Phil Hughes as Ponting's immediate replacement in the side, with Shane Watson to drop down the order to No4 allowing Hughes to bat at No3. The No3 position is a difficult one. You put the pads on when the opening batsmen do and you could be out in the middle for the second ball of the innings, or you could sit there all day without having a bat. You need to have the ability to adjust your approach to suit the situation, whether the score is 1/0, 1/300 or anything in between.

I have always been of the belief that if you can open the batting, you can bat anywhere in the order. Anyone who can face the quicks charging in with the new ball can handle anything, as long as waiting around in the sheds doesn't lead to burning up too much nervous energy. I batted at No6 a couple of times in One-day Internationals and it was a very different experience for me. I didn't really enjoy the waiting around.

Hughes has been working hard on his game and I think we'll notice some subtle differences in his technique. I'm confident that he has a big future in the game and this series against Sri Lanka could be the perfect way to relaunch his Test career.

Australia now has a very inexperienced top three, all desperate to cement a place in the team for at least the next five years. The opening pair of Ed Cowan and David Warner still needs to work on their consistency, to make the No3 spot easier for whoever is batting there. So much Test match success depends on the openers getting a good start to an innings.

Australia's bowling attack will look more like it did for the Adelaide Test, with Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus returning and Mitchell Starc taking the third pace bowling position. Starc bowled nervously in Perth and erratically at times, but he did take eight wickets for the match against the best Test side in the world. That should give him a lot of confidence and with the Bellerive pitch promising to give the bowlers a bit of assistance we could see Starc at his best.

Out of the ten Sheffield Shield innings so far this season in Hobart, five have been totals under 150. The pitch has caused some problems, but I think the curator will be very conscious of flattening it out. The danger is he could overdo it and produce a pitch that doesn't last the full five days. Before the toss Michael Clarke will turn to the local players, Ed Cowan and Ben Hilfenhaus, for advice on just how the pitch looks like behaving. Whether it's a green top or not I think we will definitely see a result and the more it plays up the better Sri Lanka's chances will be of springing an upset.

Sri Lanka's danger man will be Rangana Herath who has been in great form lately, bagging 20 wickets in two Tests against New Zealand. He is ranked in the top three Test bowlers in the world and has really blossomed following the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. Herath had been Sri Lanka's version of Stuart MacGill, a great bowler trapped behind an absolute legend waiting for any opportunity to have a run. Now he is the strike weapon and has more five-wicket hauls this year than any other Test bowler.

If the Bellerive pitch does start to crumble late in the Test, Herath will be a real handful. Sri Lanka has a lot of class players who are all determined to win their first Test on Australian soil. I still expect Australia to win and win well, but there could well be some surprises along the way.

Is Phil Hughes the right man for the Australia No3 spot?
Are there too many specialist openers in the side?
What will the series result be against Sri Lanka?


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