Sri Lanka v Australia
Saturday August 13, 2:30pm AEST
After going into the series as hot favourites Australia will now be looking to reclaim some pride and avoid a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka when they meet in the third test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.
The hosts wrapped up the series with a thumping 229-run victory in Galle, dominating the match from Day One. Kusal Mendis picked up where he left off in Pallekele, following up his century in the first test with an enterprising 86 on day one to push Sri Lanka to an ultimately impressive first innings total of 281.
However once again it was the Sri Lankan spinners who took control of the match, taking 18 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall and never allowing the visitors to score freely. While Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan did most of the damage in Pallekele, this time it was Dilruwan Perera who ran riot, claiming match figures of 10/99 alongside a second innings 64 in what was a superb all-round performance.
One area of concern for Sri Lanka is the form of opening batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva who, between them, have only four half-centuries in their past 32 innings’, while in this series the Sri Lankan opening partnership is yet to reach double-figures. Karunaratne could find himself omitted from the side in favour of Roshen Silva, while in the only other likely change underused paceman Vishwa Fernando could be swapped out for the returning Nuwan Pradeep.
After comprehensive defeats in the first two tests Australian skipper Steve Smith has indicated that changes will be considered with none of the Aussie batsmen managing to post a half-century in Galle. Within the squad reserve batsman Shaun Marsh and all-rounder Moises Henriques both have some experience – and success – in the sub-continent, with opener Joe Burns under some pressure to keep his spot after looking all at sea against Sri Lanka’s slower bowlers.
However Burns certainly hasn’t been alone with none of the Australian batsman averaging over 30 for the series. The visitors’ spinners have also struggled to match the deeds of their counterparts with Nathan Lyon struggling for penetration, while Jon Holland made an inauspicious debut in Galle. However pace bowler Mitchell Starc has undoubtedly been the bright spot for Australia on this tour, picking up a career best 11/94 in the second test on a pitch that was not highly conducive to fast bowling.
The Aussies will need Starc to continue his outstanding form as failure to win here will see them relinquish top spot on the ICC Rankings.
Sinhalese Sports Club Ground
The Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo is expected to produce similar conditions to the first two tests with spin to again play a significant part, as illustrated by Herath’s 14-wicket haul at the ground two years ago against Pakistan. However historically batting has been slightly easier here with five draws from the past eight tests, while it’s worth noting that Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews averages 94.33 at the ground.
- Sri Lanka have won their last four tests at home.
- Sri Lanka have lost only one of their past 15 tests at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.
- However in Sri Lanka’s last ten innings’, their opening partnership has exceeded 10 only three times.
- Australia have lost seven of their last 13 tests away from home, including their last eight in Asia.
- Australia have failed to reach 250 in 11 of their last 15 innings’ away from home.
Finally the market has acknowledged Sri Lanka’s form and Australia’s deficiencies in the conditions, installing the hosts as favourites, albeit still at an attractive price. Despite their abominable record in the region an Australian victory is the next most favoured result, with the draw considered only an outside chance.
There is simply no way I could side with Australia given the manner of both their defeats in the opening two tests and while a draw has seemed even less likely there are some scattered thunderstorms forecast – as well as the high proportion of draws at the ground – which could bring it into play here.
That leaves us with Sri Lanka who, despite dominating consecutive tests against Australia, are somehow still not considered a better than even money chance to win this one. Their spinners have left the Australian batsmen completely dumbfounded, and irrespective of whether the Aussies make any personnel changes, I expected Herath, Dilruwan and Sandakan to again cause the visitors plenty of pain.
The home side’s approach with the bat has been very positive since they were dismissed for 117 on the first day of the series and aside from the notable exception of Starc, the Australian bowling attack has looked out of its depth in these conditions.
Moreover the Sri Lankans have been surprisingly skillful in the field, another area where Australia have let themselves down, and they also boast a strong record at the ground. Therefore at the current prices I cannot ignore a straight out back of the home side to complete the whitewash.
BACK – Sri Lanka at 2.50 or bigger for 2 units.