Sri Lanka v Australia Third ODI
Sunday August 28, 7:00pm AEST
With the series squared at 1-1, Sri Lanka and Australia head north for the pivotal third ODI at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium.
The home side hit back after dropping the opening game of the series with a relatively comprehensive victory in Colombo. The middle-order triumvirate of Kusal Mendis (69 off 69), Dinesh Chandimal (48 of 67) and Angelo Mathews (57 off 60) ensured that Sri Lanka would post a compelling total, before some late striking from Kusal Perera (54 off 53) elevated them to an imposing 288 with only late wickets preventing the hosts from reaching the 300 mark.
Australia never really threatened to overhaul the target with left-arm orthodox Amila Aponso again starring with 4/18 off 9.2 overs including the key wickets of Steve Smith and George Bailey. Aponso received valuable support from erratic all-rounder Thisara Perera who picked up three wickets, while skipper Mathews chimed in with two. The form of Mendis has been particularly prolific with four half-centuries from his past five ODIs, following on from the test series where he averaged an impressive 49.33.
Mathews has since anointed Mendis as “the future” of the national side and that statement has become all the more relevant following the announcement that this match will be the last in the career of veteran opener Tillekaratne Dilshan after 330 ODIs. Dilshan will be hoping to go out with a bang after scoring only one fifty in his past eight ODIs.
For the visitors it was back to the drawing board after they again struggled to deal with Sri Lanka’s spin-heavy attack. Only wicket-keeper Matthew Wade (76 off 88) managed to mount any significant resistance in an otherwise unconvincing display.
With the ball, Adam Zampa made the most of helpful conditions by claiming 3/42 from his ten overs, while Mitchell Starc picked up another three wickets and James Faulkner snagged a late hat-trick. However the main issue for the Aussies was their fifth bowler with Moises Henriques, Travis Head and Aaron Finch conceding a combined 88 from 11 overs. Henriques also struggled with the bat, chewing up 16 balls for just four runs, and has done little to convince the selectors that he is a viable alternative to Mitchell Marsh.
However Henriques is likely to retain his place with captain Steve Smith returning home for a rest and pace bowling all-rounder Nathan Coulter-Nile ruled out of the rest of the series with a back injury. Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh will vie to take Smith’s spot at first drop, while T20 squad members John Hastings and Scott Boland will provide additional back-up for the bowling unit. David Warner will take over the captaincy reins from Smith and will hope to arrest a worrying slump, having been dismissed for less than 15 in five of his eight knocks on this tour.
Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium
If history is anything to go by then the pitch at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium is unlikely to be any friendlier for the batsmen with only one of the past eight first innings scores exceeding 260, while four sides have been bowled out for under 200. However the ground does hold happy memories for the retiring Dilshan who has averaged 66.20 in his last six knocks here.
- Sri Lanka have won four of their past six ODIs when batting second.
- Sri Lanka have won four of their last five ODIs at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium.
- Kusal Mendis has top-scored for Sri Lanka three times in eight innings over the course of this tour.
- Australia have won four of their past five ODIs in Asia.
- Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh have contributed almost 30% of Australia’s runs in ODIs this year.
Despite defeat in the last match and the loss of their skipper, Australia are considered favourites to take a 2-1 lead in Dambulla although their price has drifted from the last match, with Sri Lanka only considered moderate outsiders.
It’s hard to have too much faith in the Aussies given their struggles with the conditions and also taking into account that they are missing two of their best batsmen in this format, one of whom is also a key cog in the bowling attack.
However there is a reason why Sri Lanka are as low as sixth in the ICC rankings and while they are much stronger at home (with a particularly strong record at this ground) I’d be looking for more consistency before I could back them at this price against the number one ranked Australian side.
Therefore for the second straight match I’m going to overlook the match odds market and search for some value elsewhere.
As I mentioned earlier Kusal Mendis is in red-hot form and has certainly taken a liking to the Australians, averaging 54 across all tests and ODIs on this tour and top-scoring three times. Equally adept at rebuilding after losing early wickets (as he did in game one) or taking the attack to the bowlers (as he did in game two), his record in this format of the game is particularly impressive, averaging 40.44 at a strike-rate of 87.29.
His recent stats make for even more compelling reading with four fifties in his last five ODIs, top-scoring twice. At this point the Aussies haven’t been able to construct an effective plan to limit Mendis’ scoring and with further disruptions to their starting XI I see no reason why the youngster’s fruitful form cannot continue so will happily back him to top-score again here.
BACK – Kusal Mendis Top Sri Lanka Batsman at 4.25 or bigger for 1 unit.