Pallekele (Sri Lanka), Sep 6: Michael Clarke will look to put his first Test series as Australia's captain beyond Sri Lanka's reach when the second match opens in Pallekele on Thursday. The tourists won the first Test on a controversial dusty wicket in Galle by 125 runs last week to take the lead in the three-match series, Australia's first in Sri Lanka since 2004.
The Sri Lankan board faces sanctions from the International Cricket Council, which said on Monday that match referee Chris Broad had expressed his "concerns over the quality of the pitch" in his report.
Clarke's predecessor, Ricky Ponting, also began his captaincy stint in Sri Lanka with a 3-0 sweep seven years ago and went on to become Test cricket's most successful captain with 48 victories.
Australia's emphatic win at Galle over the lacklustre Sri Lankans suggests a similar whitewash is a distinct possibility, but Clarke was not taking anything for granted. "We've still got a lot of work to do," he said. "We didn't come here to win one Test match, we've come to win three Test matches. We have to be at our best always."
Clarke has reason to be wary of what lies ahead, especially in the second Test of a series. Australia have lost five second Tests in their last 10 series, winning four and drawing one.
Clarke himself has not made a Test century over 21 innings, but his 23 and 60 at Galle indicated a big knock was round the corner for the stylish right-hander. Australia return to Pallekele for the second time on the current tour, having lost two Twenty20 matches against Sri Lanka there before winning the first one-day international by seven wickets.
The Pallekele International Stadium, near the hill city of Kandy, has hosted just one Test, against the West Indies in December, which was rained off without one innings being completed.
The Pallekele wicket is expected to play better than the one in the first Test, although it mattered little to the tourists that the surface in Galle was tailor-made for spin.
Australia's seamers, led by Ryan Harris' 5-62, picked up nine of the 10 Sri Lankan second-innings wickets. Debutant off-spinner Nathan Lyon grabbed 5-34, including a wicket with his first delivery, in the first innings.
Shaun Marsh is almost certain to make his Test debut in Pallekele, replacing Ponting, who returned home after Galle to await the birth of his second child.
"I just look forward to the challenge if I am picked," said the 28-year-old Marsh. "It's a dream to play Test cricket because Test cricket is the pinnacle."
The left-hander, son of former Australian opener Geoff Marsh, is not a novice to the big stage, having played in 35 one-day internationals and five Twenty20 games.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, may bring back unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis after he was surprisingly excluded for the first Test. Mendis could replace off-spinner Suraj Randiv, who claimed 2-76 in the first innings at Galle, but returned wicketless in the second despite the helpful track.
The hosts will aim to improve their batting after being shot out for 105 in the first innings. They made 253 in the second on the back of a classy century from Mahela Jayawardene and 95 from young Angelo Mathews.