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Getting into Australia’s middle order early is key, says Sangakkara

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By Adam Smith (Tasmanian Mercury) | December 13, 2012

PhotoAustralia’s top order might look more vulnerable than it has at any stage in the past decade, but Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara refuses to take the new-look squad lightly.

Following the retirement of Ricky Ponting, the Australians will head into the first Test at Bellerive starting on Friday with a likely top three boasting just 39 caps between them.

Local hero Ed Cowan (10 Tests), David Warner (12) and the recalled Phil Hughes (17) look far less intimidating on paper than the Phil Jacques, Matt Hayden and Ponting line-up that last greeted the Sri Lankans on Australian soil four seasons ago, but Sangakkara expects the trio to be just as hungry as they look to establish themselves at international level.

The 35-year-old, 113-Test veteran admits Aussie skipper Michael Clarke and a rejuvenated Michael Hussey are the key planks and any vulnerability at the top will be determined by how well the visitors bowl.

"It really depends on the way they are tested and it depends on what we throw at them," the former Sri Lankan captain said yesterday.

"Of course, looking at the Aussie sides of the past maybe the big names aren’t there, but the guys who are playing are still as hungry and I think that kind of makes everyone play better cricket.

"It is really making sure we are prepared for them and challenge them at every stage."

Sangakkara expects there to be some extra pressure on the shoulders of Hughes, who replaces one of the all-time greats of the game in Ponting.

Hughes will return to the scene of his last Test almost 12 months ago, where New Zealand seamer Chris Martin worked him over and he was sent into the wilderness for the second time.

"We know how dangerous Warner can be, Cowan has come a long way and is pretty solid, but it’s Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey who really solidify that middle order," Sangakkara said.

"With ‘Punter’ retiring there is a big hole and really big shoes for anyone coming in to fill. I think if we can get into that middle order quite quickly with the new ball, it will be quite interesting, but getting there is the key."

Winning a Test match on Australian soil is one of the last frontiers for Sangakkara, who admits it might be his last chance to achieve the feat.

Four years ago in Hobart he scored a majestic second-innings 192 as Sri Lanka threatened to chase down a world record 507, but he may not get a better opportunity to finally break his duck than this tour.

"When you do get older, you look for achievements where you haven’t really tasted victory, so here and India are Test matches still to win," he said.

© The Mercury

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