Sri Lanka v Australia First T20I
Tuesday September 6, 11:30pm
After a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the ODI series, Australia turn their attention to their least favoured format with the beginning of a two-match T20I series against Sri Lanka in Pallekele on Tuesday.
T20 is arguably Sri Lanka’s weakest format of the game as well with the Tigers down as low as eighth on the ICC rankings. All up the hosts have lost seven of their past eight T20Is with the lone victory coming against lowly Afghanistan.
They have been further hampered by injuries too with captain Angelo Mathews remaining sidelined with a calf injury, while fast-bowler Nuwan Pradeep continues to battle a hamstring complaint.
The loss of Mathews will be partially offset by the return of veteran Tillekaratne Dilshan who will play both T20 matches before stepping down from national duties altogether.
After some promising contributions in the ODI series Dhananjaya de Silva, Sachith Pathirana and Amila Aponso will all push for inclusion, while wicket-keeper Kusal Perera will likely be elevated to the top of the order in an effort to ignite the Sri Lankan’s efforts with the bat which were largely underwhelming throughout the ODI series.
Stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal will again be a key figure for the home side and he will be hoping to finally translate his form from tests and ODIs to T20Is, where he has failed to pass 25 in his last five innings’. Incredibly for Sri Lanka a series win here would be their first in this format since May 2014.
Australia themselves will be looking for only their second T20I series win from their past five and like their hosts they have been struck by injury with powerful pair Aaron Finch (broken finger) and Chris Lynn (dislocated shoulder) both ruled out on top of earlier setbacks which saw Shaun Marsh and Nathan Coulter-Nile both sent home early.
This has been compounded by the fact that Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood have all been rested from the series, forcing ODI specialists George Bailey and Matthew Wade to remain with the T20 squad. Therefore the majority of the Aussies’ starting XI will be made up of the victorious one-day side although test ‘keeper Peter Nevill will take the gloves from Wade, while deposed all-rounder Glenn Maxwell gets his chance to prove the selectors wrong and make a mark in the shortest format.
After an incredibly disappointing tour to date, Usman Khawaja looks likely to take Finch’s spot alongside David Warner at the top of the order, while youngster Travis Head and more seasoned all-rounder Moises Henriques will battle it out for a spot in the middle-order.
Having terrorised Sri Lanka’s batsmen throughout the entire tour, Mitchell Starc gets his final chance to wreak some damage before he joins Hazlewood for an enforced rest ahead of the limited overs tour to South Africa.
Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Conditions in Pallekele were not straightforward for batsmen in the fifth ODI where the new ball swung under lights and the pitch took increasing amounts of turn as the match progressed. However historically the surface in T20Is has been more favourable here with the average first innings score over the past four fixtures a sizeable 5/181.
- Sri Lanka have lost seven of their past eight T20Is.
- Sri Lanka have lost three of their last four T20Is at home.
- Australia have won only four of their past 11 T20Is.
- However away from home Australia have won four of their past six T20Is.
Australia have been installed as favourites to take a series lead despite this being their most unfancied format, with Sri Lanka considered outsiders after their poor showing in the ODIs.
Unlike other formats, Sri Lanka do not have a superior record at home to fall back on in T20 cricket and while the spin-friendly conditions will continue to suit them more than their opponents it’s hard to have the sufficient confidence to side with them in any way.
Similarly the Australian side are not noted for their prowess in the shortest format of the game, although there seems to be less of a disconnect between their performances home and abroad.
The major concern for the Aussies is that without Finch, Smith, Lynn and the Marsh brothers there are a few holes in their batting order, however at least replacements Bailey and Wade are in decent form and their bowling attack remains a formidable prospect against Sri Lanka’s flaky batting.
It remains to be seen whether the Pallekele groundstaff will prepare a more batsman-friendly pitch, however one noticeable aspect of the conditions in the fifth ODI here was how the new ball swung under lights which should have Mitchell Starc licking his lips at the prospect of adding even more wickets to his prolific tally on this tour.
All things considered I cannot overlook both the strength of the Australian bowling attack – with Starc complemented by the likes of John Hastings, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa – and the deplorable recent record of the hosts in this format, having only beaten Afghanistan and the UAE in their last 11 T20Is.
It’s very hard to see Australia not trading significantly lower than their starting price, however given that they are missing some of their key match-winners I am prepared to trade out and lock in some guaranteed profit along the way.
BACK-to-LAY Australia at 1.50 or bigger for 2 units (trade out at 1.25 or better).