Sri Lanka v Australia
Thursday August 4, 2:30pm EST
Following their shock win in the first test in Pallekele, Sri Lanka will be looking to wrap up a rare series win by overcoming Australia in the second test at Galle, starting on Thursday.
The situation looked pretty grim for the hosts when they were dismissed for just 117 on day one in Pallekele after opting to bat first. However, after restricting Australia to an 86-run lead in the first innings, their charge sprung to life via a maiden century from youngster Kusal Mendis who compiled a 176.
With a bit of help from Dinesh Chandimal (42) and debutant Dhananjaya de Silva (36) they posted what proved to be an insurmountable fourth innings target of 268. Veteran spinner Rangana Herath also played a pivotal role with match figures of 9/103, including the key wicket of Australian captain Steve Smith in both innings.
Herath received vital support from left-arm chinaman Lakshan Sandakan, who claimed seven wickets on debut and maintained impressive control throughout the match. Of more concern to Sri Lanka will be the form of captain Angelo Mathews who after twin failures in the first test, has now only scored two half-centuries in his past 14 test innings.
Changes in personnel are unlikely for the home side despite the fact that pace bowler Suranga Lakmal may be available following a hamstring injury as Sri Lanka look set to maintain their approach of bombarding Australia with multiple spin options.
After trading as low as $1.11, Australia could do little to stop the resurgent home side as their familiar problems with playing the turning ball in the sub-continent re-surfaced. 18 of their 20 wickets fell to spin, while the visitors number one proponent with the ball Nathan Lyon was unable to build pressure, conceding four runs an over throughout the test.
Lyon’s job was made more difficult by the loss of fellow ‘tweaker’ Steve O’Keefe to injury during Sri Lanka’s second innings and it appears that Victorian Jon Holland will be catapulted straight into Australia’s starting XI in Galle in place of fellow left-arm orthodox O’Keefe.
Vice-captain David Warner endured a disappointing return from a broken finger, lasting just nine balls over both innings’, and while his form has been excellent in other formats, he has now failed to reach 25 in seven of his past eight test knocks. There were promising signs from much-maligned all-rounder Mitchell Marsh who looked as comfortable as any of the Australian batsmen at the crease during his handy but ultimately inadequate contributions of 31 and 25.
If they are to avoid a series defeat then the number one ranked side will need to summon the character shown by O’Keefe and wicket-keeper Peter Nevill who combined for an obdurate second innings partnership in which they soaked up 178 balls in a brave but futile effort to hold on for a draw.
Galle International Stadium
This venue has been a happy hunting ground for Sri Lanka who have lost only six of the 27 tests played there with two of those losses have coming at the hands of Australia. Most recently the Lions thrashed the West Indies by an innings and 6 runs and edged India by 63 runs, after knocking over Virat Kohli’s side for just 112 in the fourth innings.
Spin played a significant role in both those matches and following Australia’s struggles against the slower bowlers in Pallekele, it’s expected that the surface here will again take plenty of spin.
- Sri Lanka have won five of their last six tests at home.
- Sri Lanka’s past eleven tests at home have all produced a result.
- Sri Lanka have won six of their past nine tests in Galle.
- Australia have now won one of their last 16 tests in Asia, losing their last seven straight.
- Australia have only exceeded 300 in two of their past 13 innings in Asia.
- Australia have drawn only two of their past 25 tests away from home with the last 15 all producing a result.
Despite their struggles Australia have been installed as favourites to restore parity, with the hosts again considered outsiders while the draw sits somewhere in between.
Although their record in this part of the world is particularly poor and their batsman again looked all at sea against the Sri Lankan twirlers, there is no doubt that Australia is more than capable of winning this match.
Were it not for a rare innings from Kusal Mendis, compounded by an injury to one of Australia’s key bowlers, the visitors could well have won the match comfortably and it wouldn’t surprise to see them trade at short odds again.
However where I disagree with the market is that I cannot have the draw a more likely result than Sri Lanka winning. Despite regular interruptions due to the weather and the aforementioned obstinate stand between Nevill and O’Keefe, the first test was decided with more than a session to spare.
The weather once again looks set to play a part in Galle, however forecasts suggest its impact will be intermittent and not as severe as in Pallekele. But most importantly you only need to look at how infrequently both sides play out draws with Sri Lanka’s last 11 home tests producing a result, while Australia have gone 15 consecutive matches on the road without a stalemate.
The temptation is to back Sri Lanka, especially given their strong record at the ground and momentum from the first test, however I still believe they are highly susceptible to being bowled out cheaply considering that one batsman contributed almost 40% of their runs in Pallekele.
Australia also remain liable to being rolled for a low total, with less than a week not enough time to correct their technical deficiencies in the conditions which is further illustrated by their lack of scores over 300 in Asia.
Therefore I’m happy to take on the draw in the expectation that it will balloon out within the first couple of days at which point I will look to trade out and lock in some handsome profit.
LAY-TO-BACK – The Draw at 3.60 for 3 units (trade out at 10.00 or bigger).