Australia v Sri Lanka: Test Match Previews

Sri Lanka v Australia will be the last Test Series Australia play on home soil before they begin their preparation for India, the World Cup and the Ashes. For both tests, get the expert match previews and best betting selections right here on the Betfair Hub.


After a dominating win in the series opener at the Gabba, Australia will be looking to further assert their dominance in the second and final test against Sri Lanka at Manuka Oval, starting on Friday.

Australia

The Aussies steamrolled Sri Lanka in two-and-a-half days at Brisbane, their performance underpinned by a ruthless performance in the field. After losing the toss and being asked to bowl first, the seamers made the most of some helpful early conditions to reduce the Sri Lankans to 6/91 before eventually knocking the visitors over for 144.

Jhye Richardson showed plenty of promise on debut with 3/26 off 14 overs, however Pat Cummins was the pick of bowlers, claiming 4/39 off 14.4 overs. Australia were then forced to endure a tricky period with the bat under lights which they negotiated relatively well, moving to 2/72 at stumps with opener Marcus Harris unbeaten on 40.

Unfortunately for Harris he could only add a further four to his overnight score before departing, however the Aussies were steadied by a 166-run stand between Marnus Labuschagne (81) and new vice-captain Travis Head (84) who both recorded their highest test scores, though each fell short of becoming the first Australian to notch a test ton this summer.

The hosts were eventually bowled out for 323 with Mitchell Starc (26 not out off 25 balls) overcoming his poor form with the ball to add some late spark. In Sri Lanka’s second innings Starc was again underwhelming with 0/57 off 14 overs, however it mattered little as his fellow pacemen Richardson and Cummins combined to bowl Sri Lanka out for 139, securing victory by an innings and 40 runs. Cummins took a career-best 6/23 in the second dig and was subsequently named man of the match.

The only change to Australia’s squad sees all-rounder Marcus Stoinis drafted in for reserve opener Matthew Renshaw, though coach Justin Langer has indicated they will stick with the same starting XI in Canberra.

Sri Lanka

Sadly Sri Lanka were never really at the races, their capitulation epitomised by 11 single figure scores over both innings. On the first day obdurate opener Dimuth Karunaratne (24) showed signs of his grit before becoming one of the few batsmen to fall to spin just prior to the tea break, while ‘keeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella adopted a positive approach in his knock of 64 off 78 deliveries which was Sri Lanka’s highest of the test.

With the ball former captain Suranga Lakmal used both the first and second new ball to good effect, picking up 5/75 off his 27 overs, while 21-year-old quick Lahiru Kumara (1/37) hurried up the Australian batsmen before succumbing to a hamstring complaint that will see him miss the second test.

There wasn’t much to write home about in regards to the Sri Lankans second effort with the bat, experienced opener Lahiru Thirimanne top-scoring with just 32, while Dickwella and Lakmal (both 24) were the only other batsmen to pass 20.

There’s no doubt the visitors sorely missed the influence of Angelo Mathews in their middle-order with captain Dinesh Chandimal (5 and 0) and the prolific Kusal Mendis (14 and 1) both enduring disappointing tests. Despite their struggles at the Gabba it is unlikely that Sri Lanka will make any changes to their top-order with Kusal Perera and Sadeera Samarawickrama set to remain on the sidelines.

Kasun Rajitha seems the logical replacement for Kumara, especially as fellow quick Nuwan Pradeep already broke down in the tour match against a Cricket Australia XI, replaced in the squad by left-armer Vishwa Fernando.

Manuka Oval

This will be the first ever test match in the nation’s capital, though it has been a high-scoring ground in other formats with the last four first innings scores in ODIs here eclipsing 340.

The lone Sheffield Shield match at Manuka Oval this season was also relatively high-scoring with New South Wales defeating Queensland by 163 runs after racking up 3/360 in their second innings off the back of a 251-run opening partnership.

Although he wasn’t required so much in Brisbane, look out for off-spinner Nathan Lyon who took nine wickets in that match.

Key Stats

  • Australia have lost only two of their past 14 tests at home.
  • However Australia have lost six of their past ten tests overall.
  • Sri Lanka have won only two of their past 11 away tests.
  • Sri Lanka have conceded over 500 in two of their past three tests.
  • Sri Lanka have conceded over 400 in six of their past ten away tests.
  • 1,115 runs were scored in the only Sheffield Shield match at Manuka Oval this season.

The Verdict

Australia are now even shorter favourites to make it a 2-0 series win with both a Sri Lankan win and draw priced in double figures.

The Aussies were dominant at the Gabba, particularly in the field where they not only bowled impressively but caught well. There were signs of improvement from their batting unit too, though we don’t want to get carried away with one strong performance and given that conditions are unlikely to favour their pace attack so much I still think the hosts are too short to back, though granted I don’t wish to oppose them on this occasion.

After that first up effort I couldn’t go near Sri Lanka with a disappointing lack of fight and heart displayed in Brisbane. On the plus side conditions should suit their batsmen far more down in Canberra, although the flipside to that may be that their mediocre bowling unit seems set to struggle even more at Manuka.

The forecast is bright enough for Canberra that we don’t wish to entertain the draw. Sri Lanka showed in New Zealand that miracles do happen, however they have a long way to go on that batting performance displayed at the Gabba, while there are still question marks over the home side’s ability to bat time, even against such a toothless attack.

However despite those question marks the angle we’re going to take here is to place some faith in Australia’s misfiring batting unit and back them to come good on the flat surface at Manuka.

There have been enough signs of encouragement from the likes of Harris, Labuschagne and Head this summer to suggest that they can go big, while the top-order duo of Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns boast plenty of test match pedigree themselves.

Moreover Sri Lanka’s bowling attack has struggled of late, particularly on foreign soil, and given they are missing one of their more enthusiastic performers in Kumara we think the time is right to back Australia to breach 400 for the first time this summer.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia 1st Inns Runs 400 Runs or more at 2.10 for 1 unit.

A revamped Australian side will be looking to restore some pride with victory in the first of two tests against Sri Lanka at the Gabba, starting on Thursday.

Australia

Following their 2-1 series loss to India, the Australians have made wholesale changes to their batting line-up which struggled to compile adequate totals against the Indians. Gone are the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, along with fellow middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb.

After being dropped for the final test in the India series, ODI captain Aaron Finch remains on the outer, however Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne has retained his place after a solid performance at the SCG. There are also recalls for Labuschagne’s state teammates Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw, both of whom have enjoyed success at test level, while the bolter in the squad is 20-year-old Will Pucovski who could make his international debut after just eight first-class games.

Following some promising contributions against India both Marcus Harris and Travis Head seemed assured of their spots in the starting XI, with the only question surrounding exactly how high Head will bat.

There is more stability down the order with captain Tim Paine a fixture behind the stumps, while first-choice pace attack Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins return after being rested during the one-day series. Spinner Nathan Lyon was given no such luxury but he will again play a key role for the Aussies with no all-rounder in the squad.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka enter the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy off a 1-0 series loss to New Zealand, though they did show incredible fortitude and character to draw the first test from a seemingly helpless position. However veteran Angelo Mathews, who played a pivotal role in that escape, has been ruled out of the tour due to a hamstring compliant in what shapes as a significant blow to the visitors.

The tourists have also dropped opener Danushka Gunathilaka who didn’t get past single figures against the Black Caps, with Kusal Perera winning a recall. Otherwise the Sri Lanka squad remains unchanged, with the batting set to lean heavily on middle-order prodigy Kusal Mendis who averaged 75.00 against New Zealand, as well as steady opener Dimuth Karunaratne who passed fifty more than any other Sri Lankan batsman in test matches last year.

Captain Dinesh Chandimal will also be hoping to rise to the occasion after struggling upon his return from injury against the Kiwis, while Mathews’ injury may present another chance for Roshen Silva.

The tourists’ pace attack generally struggled in New Zealand but the experienced Suranga Lakmal and 21-year-old Lahiru Kumara seem set to retain their spots with the third seamer position to be battled out between Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha and Nuwan Pradeep.

Dilruwan Perera has a stranglehold on the spinners’ position, while ‘keeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella adds some sparkle from number seven.

The Gabba

The Gabba is traditionally Australia’s fortress with the hosts famously not having lost there since 1988. This will be the second day-night test at the Gabba with the first resulting in a 39-run win for the Aussies over Pakistan who had threatened to chase down a monster 490 in the fourth innings.

As always there will be plenty of focus on how the pink ball performs under lights, with the final session in the last day-night test here returning aggregated figures of 12/432.

Key Stats

  • Australia have won only one of their past nine tests.
  • Australia have won only two of their past six tests at home.
  • However Australia haven’t lost a test at the Gabba since 1988.
  • Sri Lanka have lost four of their last five tests.
  • However Sri Lanka have only lost three of their past 12 tests away from home.
  • Sri Lanka have never won a test in Australia.

The Verdict

Despite their recent struggles the Australians are warm favourites with a Sri Lankan victory narrowly preferred to the draw.

Whilst I cannot question Australia’s favouritism in this match, I believe there is certainly debate to be had around the extent to which they are considered jollies. This is a struggling side who have shown a complete inability to bat for long periods, while their bowlers are coming off a tough series in which they were made to look relatively toothless so I definitely don’t have any interest in being with the hosts as such short odds.

Whether Sri Lanka have the talent and application to match it with them is yet another quandary. There were plenty of positive signs with the bat in New Zealand, though they have lost a key contributor in Mathews, while their bowling attack seems ill-suited to these conditions, even against a nervous Australian top-order. However what does give me some faith is the visitors’ surprisingly positive record on foreign shores of late so I’m not prepared to completely write them off just yet.

Both sides have played out a smattering of draws recently, though weather has usually been involved. At such a big price we cannot totally overlook the possibility of a stalemate but with two questionable batting units playing under lights there is every chance the draw price will go north very quickly.

Overall this is a tough match to gauge but it’s certainly rare to find such an out-of-sorts team at such a short price. The question then becomes about how much we trust the opposition and my answer is that there is belief in the Sri Lankans, even if only in a limited quantity.

A good run of performances away from home is enough to convince me to take on this Australian price, albeit I will be looking for a swift trade given the Aussies’ formidable record at the Gabba and the long history of no Sri Lankan test victories Down Under.

Betting Strategy

 LAY TO BACK – Australia at 1.33 or better for 1 unit (trade out at 1.65 or bigger).


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