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Beleaguered Sri Lanka to face Australia

By AAP Newswire

Staring at a string of losses, weighed down by history and missing key personnel, Sri Lanka arrive in Australia giving their best impression of lambs to the slaughter.

On Saturday, the Lions crossed the Tasman, reflecting on a disastrous tour of New Zealand, offering few glimmers of hope they'd push Australia in a two-Test series.

The tour ended on an appropriate note, capitulating in a run chase to lose the one-off Twenty20 international by 35 runs on Friday night at Eden Park.

Exasperated T20 skipper Lasith Malinga says his team are still learning to win games when they get into good positions, an issue that had plagued them in all formats in New Zealand.

Hamstrung by a brittle batting line-up and a blunt seam attack, they were swept 3-0 by the Black Caps in the one-day international series and went down 1-0 in the two-Test series before Christmas.

It would have been 2-0 but rain and a dogged second-innings partnership between centurions Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews forced a draw in the first Test in Wellington.

They were smashed in the second by 423 runs, hard on the heels of a miserable home-series loss to England.

Rubbing salt in the wounds, former skipper Mathews - their best batsman in the New Zealand Tests - will miss the Australian leg with injury.

Mathews led Sri Lanka to their historic 3-0 home-Test series drubbing of Australia when the teams last met in mid-2016.

That triumph had also followed a bleak period for the Sri Lankans but it is hard to see them going close to a repeat in Australia given they won't have the same spin-friendly conditions and no longer boast the accomplished services of retired tweaker Rangana Herath.

Sri Lanka have lost all six series in Australia and have never won a Test, having notched 11 losses and two draws.

A far-stronger batting division visited six years ago, boasting world class trio Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan, yet they were whitewashed 3-0, failing to handle Australia's pace and bounce.

Mendis was a shining light throughout 2018, ranking second behind Virat Kohli for calendar runs (1023).

Offspinner Dilruwan Perera was similarly ranked for wickets (50) but he struggled noticeably in Kiwi conditions.

The tourists face a strong Cricket Australia XI from Thursday in Hobart in a pink-ball tour match to prepare for the day-night Test at the Gabba before Canberra's Manuka Oval hosts a maiden Test.