Cricket: Sri Lankans expecting hostile MCG crowd

Mahela Jayawardene. Photo by Reuters
Mahela Jayawardene. Photo by Reuters
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene is expecting a hostile reception at the MCG for today's second Test against Australia amid ongoing tensions over the ball-tampering accusation made against Peter Siddle.

Sri Lanka made an unofficial complaint to ICC match referee Chris Broad during the first Test in Hobart last week. The allegation was dismissed and Siddle was furious at how his name had been dragged through social media during day five of the match in which he claimed nine wickets.

The Victoria and Australia pace bowler is a crowd hero at the MCG and can expect his hometown fans to be in full voice today in support of their man.

However Jayawardene is expecting several thousand Sri Lankan fans to also pack into the ground and make their feelings known in defence of their team.

Australia's major concern is the fitness of skipper Michael Clarke, who completed a series of sprinting and fielding drills and declared he felt good but would wait until Wednesday morning to assess how his injured hamstring was feeling.

"My fitness test ... was really (Christmas Day). Now I need to see how I pull up from that before we make a decision on whether I am 100 per cent fit to play," Clarke said.

Despite his side's 137-run loss in Hobart, Jayawardene was in a confident mood. He said not only would the tourists have strong support in the crowd but they would also be going after Australia's offspinner Nathan Lyon, who failed to take a wicket in Sri Lanka's second innings in Hobart.

Jayawardene needs no reminding about what happened the last time Sri Lanka played a Test at the MCG in 1995, when spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled seven times in three overs for throwing.

"We have been through a lot of hostile things in the past. 1995 was one and even after that," Jayawardene said.

"I don't think that fazes our team. It might give us something extra.

"You have to remember there will be a good partisan Sri Lankan crowd as well so that will be good. It might go against him (Siddle).

"We can't control what happens out there. All we can control is what happens in the middle.

"A lot of the younger guys probably won't even understand what the crowd's going to tell them."

Jayawardene took aim at Lyon, saying that Sri Lanka's batsmen were playing for a draw in Hobart on a wearing pitch.

"We would definitely have gone after Nathan Lyon if the wicket was half-decent," Jayawardene said.

"The way the wicket was behaving we thought if we played shots that would have made life tougher to bat on.

"On a different surface or a different day things may have been different. These are the situations we want to get into in a Test match and see if we can capitalise on that."

While the Lankans see Lyon as a potential problem area for the home side, the Australians could also be unsettled if Clarke is a late withdrawal through injury.

Clarke is Test cricket's leading run-scorer in 2012 and his vice-captain Shane Watson has never led the side at Test level.

Former Test No.3 Usman Khawaja is on standby for Clarke.

Tasmania's Jackson Bird will make his debut in place of injured quick Ben Hilfenhaus while Mitchell Johnson returns for his fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc who has controversially been rested.