sport

Watson backs new-look Aussies

Shane Watson has backed a remodelled batting order to fire when Australia begin life after Ricky Ponting in the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Australia start their new era on Thursday deep in Ponting territory and on a newly-laid Hobart wicket that has proved a minefield for top-order batsmen already this season.

The team batting first has averaged just 91 at Bellerive in the past three Sheffield Shield matches to spark concern before the Test that the wicket is not ready for international cricket.

Those fears have been played down by Cricket Australia but the speculation has only served to cast the spotlight firmly on Australia's batsmen.

The failings of the top order were a major concern throughout the 1-0 Test series defeat to South Africa and captain Michael Clarke led an animated discussion with his batsmen to pour over the importance of laying a foundation.

The pressure is, however, set to be firmly on their shoulders as they look to cover for the substantial loss of Ponting - the second-highest Test runscorer in history.

Australia's reshuffle has seen Phil Hughes handed his latest return - albeit this time at three - with Watson dropping down to four.

David Warner, who scored a ton at Bellerive in a loss to New Zealand a year ago, and Ed Cowan will again lead off the innings, and in Hughes and Watson they have two men who have opened in the recent past.

Despite a seemingly over-balance of openers, Watson believes Australia will be better off for it.

"To have three guys who have opened the batting in the past is only a real good thing," he told reporters.

"Hopefully Phil Hughes doesn't have to go in too early and the openers are able to do their job the way they want to, but it's only a good thing, especially in conditions more suited to the bowlers."

Watson has backed Hughes to deliver on his return after he was dropped for the second time following a horror show against the Kiwis in Hobart 12 months ago.

The 24-year-old left-hander has since worked on his game and scored runs with both Worcestershire and South Australia to earn his recall.

"I have been able to see how his game has evolved over the last six months," Watson said.

"It is going to be exciting to see it first-hand playing with him again. The visual changes he's made in his game are impressive, but you expect that from Phil."

Watson is also determined to pin down the number four position after previously reinventing himself as a Test opener.

"I think this is more a permanent move - I hope anyway," he said.

"I know how important the number four spot is - to be able to hopefully set up an innings when the platform has already been set for me, or come in and build a big total if we've lost a few early wickets."

Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara has backed his bowlers to test Australia's new-look order should the Bellerive wicket retain its recent "sporting" characteristics.

"We've seen some of the games that [Australia] has played. There's been a bit of nibble about but it's been sporting to both sides," he said.

"If it stays the same, I think our fast bowlers will have a really good chance against the Aussie batsmen."

Sangakkara also confirmed Sri Lanka would decide between once-capped left-hander Dimuth Karunaratne and Tharanga Paranavitana to partner Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the order.