Pallekele, Sri Lanka: The 'building for the future' theme has been repeated several times in the lead-up to this series, but given how the Twenty20 internationals played out, Australia have more immediate concerns on their hands. Muttiah Muralitharan may not be around, but his slow-bowling understudies have shown they have enough ammunition to spin the visitors out of control. If Australia are to survive Sri Lanka they have to find a way past the tweakers, and the return of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey for the ODIs should be a source of great relief in their camp.
The trio's absence from the Twenty20s presented a worrying glimpse into the future of Australian batting. For a brief while during the second match, Ajantha Mendis was as unplayable as he was in his debut summer of 2008, before the world woke up to his assortment of tricks. Shane Watson top-edged a carrom ball, Shaun Marsh sleep-walked past a googly, while Brad Haddin forgot the significance of reaching out to the pitch of the ball. Even David Hussey, reputed to be a good player of spin, perished at the first sign of pressure. Sri Lanka were allowed to build that kind of pressure in a 20-over game. Australia should plan for much more in the 50-over format.
Australia's spin woes don't end with their batsmen though. With 40 ODI wickets between them, Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith and David Hussey won't give Sri Lanka sleepless nights, but their faster colleagues could make up for their inexperience. Brett Lee has been around long enough to carry this attack, while Doug Bollinger is an exciting addition to the side, given his IPL exploits in similar conditions. Add Mitchell Johnson's fire and John Hastings' variations to the mix, and you are looking at a fairly well-rounded seam arsenal. The hosts' ability to counter the fast bowlers could be decisive, with the series promising to evolve into a contest between Sri Lanka's spin and Australia's pace.