Sri Lanka set for crucial pink-ball prep

Tourists Sri Lanka will enjoy more pink-ball practice than Australia before their Test series begins under lights at the Gabba from January 24.

Scheduling has been a source of frustration for Australian players in recent years, including the domestic one-day competition effectively becoming a pre-season tournament plus the JLT Sheffield Shield’s mid-season hiatus.

The latest by-product of a convoluted calendar will give Sri Lanka, the only side apart from Australia to have won each day-night Test they’ve played, a better chance to get reacquainted with the pink ball than their hosts.

Sri Lanka wrap up their tour of New Zealand with a Twenty20 on Friday then head to Hobart for a pink-ball tour game that starts on January 17.

The two-Test series starts with a day-night clash in Brisbane on January 24, when the tourists will seek to record their first Test win in Australia.

The bulk of Australia’s Test squad will either rest or take part in a three-match ODI series against India before assembling in Brisbane.

Tim Paine and his teammates haven’t played a pink-ball game, either at first-class or Test level, since defeating England under lights at Adelaide Oval in the 2017-18 Ashes.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who have both produced some of their best performances with a pink Kookaburra, should enjoy the prospect of additional seam and swing movement after struggling to trouble India on flat MCG and SCG pitches.

But the pink ball is patently different to the red and white, hence why day-night Shield rounds were scheduled in previous seasons to help players prepare for day-night Tests.

India rejected Australia’s pleas for last month’s Adelaide Oval Test to be a day-nighter, fearing they wouldn’t have sufficient pink-ball preparation.

Steve Smith personally pushed for NSW to face Queensland under lights at the Gabba to start the 2016-17 Shield season, a request that was accommodated.

Marnus Labuschagne made a good impression on Smith, Starc and Hazlewood in that match, scoring 85 not out.

“I went alright there … it’s so long ago, we haven’t played a pink-ball game for a while now,” Labuschagne said.

“The pink ball always adds that little bit of an element of something different.

“Especially at the Gabba, where there’s a little bit more pace and bounce in the wicket. It’s an exciting Test.”

DAY-NIGHT TEST RECORD

Australia: Four wins from four games (defeated New Zealand in 2015, South Africa and Pakistan in 2016, England in 2017)

Sri Lanka: Two wins from two games (defeated Pakistan in 2017, West Indies in 2018).

(Courtesy Cricket Australia)

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