Lankans brace for hostilities

Michael Clarke has a fitness test in the nets.
Michael Clarke has a fitness test in the nets.

MAHELA Jayawardene says the prospect of a hostile MCG crowd seeking retribution against his Sri Lankan team for its recent ball-tampering accusations against Victorian paceman Peter Siddle will only fire up his players as they bid to level the series.

''I don't think that fazes our team. In fact, it might give us something extra,'' he said. ''There will be a good partisan Sri Lankan crowd and that might go against him [Siddle].''

Australian skipper Michael Clarke appeared to be winning his fitness battle and seems more likely to play than not, although he said he wouldn't make a final decision until the morning of the game.

Sri Lanka has only played a Test at the MCG once before - 17 years ago when off-spinner Muthiah Muralidaran was called for chucking. He was taunted by the crowd over the incident and, while the abuse has dissipated over the years, he still encounters some animosity from spectators.

While all Sri Lanka's squad members from that 1995-96 tour have retired from international matches, Jayawardene said the current team would be emboldened by how their countrymen had coped with the animosity and they would be prepared if the crowd registered its displeasure over Siddle being accused of tampering with the ball in Hobart.

''We have been through a lot of hostile things in the past, '95 was one,'' he said. ''But we've always had a great support in Melbourne and Sydney. We're looking forward to that.''

Clarke spent more than an hour having a fitness test on Tuesday under the supervision of team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris. It included batting in the nets, slips catching and, most relevantly, a short stint running between wickets with his pads on.

The captain conceded he had yet to run at full intensity since straining his right hamstring while batting in Hobart last Monday week, but had gone close to doing so.

He insisted neither the occasion nor his opportunity to move into the top few Test runscorers in a calendar year - he ranks eighth with 1489, within reach of Australian record-holder Ricky Ponting's 1544 - would influence the decision on whether he was fit to play.

''Having experts around me [will prevent that occurring],'' he said. ''Alex has been around international cricket for such a long time. He's seen me do my hamstrings on plenty of occasions, he's seen plenty of guys go through it.''

Clarke will not undergo a match-day fitness test. The decision will instead rest on how his body has coped with training on Monday and Tuesday.

''In my opinion, if you're not 100 per cent and can't play at your best, [you should not play] - and I'm no different in this Test match,'' he said.

''There's someone else who can come in and will perform. It's not worth the risk for the team, let alone the individual player.''

Shane Watson would be the stand-in captain if Clarke is ruled out, with Usman Khawaja taking his place in the team.

Sri Lanka also has a fitness dilemma, with seamer Nuwan Kulasekara in doubt due to a bruised rib after being struck by Siddle in the first Test in Hobart. Seamer Dhammika Prasad is on standby.

Should Clarke be ruled out, he backed Khawaja to be a solid middle-order replacement. He also endorsed the leadership credentials of Watson, whose only experience leading the national team was a six-match one-day stint earlier this year where all but one match was held overseas.

''I am very confident that if I don't play it will have zero impact on the result and 'Watto' will do a great job,'' Clarke said. ''He will do everything in his power to help us win the Test and the series.''

If Watson is required to captain Australia, he would become the 44th Test captain.

David Warner (13 Tests, 921 runs at 43.86)
Ed Cowan (11 Tests, 646 runs at 34)
Phillip Hughes (18 Tests, 1174 runs at 35.58)
Shane Watson (37 Tests, 2398 runs at 36.33; 62 wkts at 30.02)
Michael Clarke (c) (87 Tests, 6804 runs at 52.34)
Mike Hussey 77 Tests, 6149 at 51.67
Matthew Wade (7 Tests, 398 runs at 39.8; 21 catches & 2 stumpings)
Mitchell Johnson (48 Tests, 196 wkts at 31.17)
Peter Siddle (35 Tests, 135 wkts at 28.67)
Nathan Lyon (17 Tests, 56 wkts at 31.93)
Jackson Bird (On debut)
Usman Khawaja (standby for Clarke) (6 Tests, 263 runs at 29.22)

Tillakaratne Dilshan (83 Tests, 5205 runs at 41.31)
Dimuth Karunaratne (2 Tests, 104 runs at 34.67)
Kumar Sangakkara (114 Tests, 9960 runs at 55.64)
Mahela Jayawardene (c) (136 Tests, 10,671 runs at 49.86)
Thilan Samaraweera (79 Tests, 5439 runs at 50.36)
Angelo Mathews (29 Tests, 1587 runs at 41.76; 9 wkts at 78.22)
Prasanna Jayawardene (51 Tests, 1876 runs at 30.75, 97 catches and 32 stumpings)
Nuwan Kulasekera (18 Tests, 41 wkts at 35.51)
Rangana Herath (43 Tests, 179 wkts at 29.80)
Shaminda Eranga (4 Tests, 12 wkts at 38.33)
Chanaka Welegedara (19 Tests, 54 wkts at 39.78)
Dhammika Prasad (standby for Kulasekera) (10 Tests, 19 wkts at 59.95)

This story Lankans brace for hostilities first appeared on WA Today.