Australia-Sri Lanka preview

After all the negative talk about what’s happened in the recent past, all the controversy over selection, and all the speculation about the outcome of CA’s review, the Aussies are back into action from tonight in Sri Lanka. Two T20s precede a five match ODI series, and there’ll be a lot of players looking to make statements with bat and ball.

Cameron White will certainly be one with mixed feelings. Anointed at last as our leader in the game’s shortest form, he will be doubly anxious for both team and individual success before he faces the almost undignified reality of flying back to Australia once the T20s are completed on Monday. For so long a part of our ODI set-up, the best he can hope for in the hurly-burly of these matches is to shepherd the innings through the middle and latter stages, strike some meaty blows, and display his usual tactical acumen as captain.

David Warner is another of the early departees with a bit to prove ; after a good tour of Zimbabwe the batting powerhouse is at last showing the signs that he might have plenty to offer Australain cricket in the longer forms of the game. His aggression is a lot more controlled and calculated than was once the case. Both he and fellow New South Welshman Stephen O’Keefe have far too much talent to be pigeon-holed as just T20 players.

Aaron Finch will probably be challenged for his spot by Shaun Marsh, an unfortunate result for the Victorian given the excellent impression he made last summer for Australia against England in the T20 format. The word from the selectorial trenches is that Marsh has a good record against Lasith Malinga, although that won’t help much given that the Sri Lankan flinger is currently out injured.

For Michael Clarke this will be a first meaningful taste of being his country’s full-time leader   –  Bangladesh was just a practice run. He now has the chance to mould a team on his terms, manipulate the attack the way he sees fit, and get back some much-needed form with the bat. Ricky Ponting will be his best ally.

These matches will also be very important for John Hastings and Xavier Doherty to state their cases as permanent fixtures in the one-day bowling set-up. Both were mysteriously overlooked when there were opportunities to pick them during the World Cup.

Sri Lanka on its own turf will be a challenge. The World Cup runner-up is a very good one-day outfit with an impressive batting line-up, and one hopes that the Aussie brainstrust have done the necessary homework on the recently-completed England- Sri Lanka series.

After his sensational speech at Lord’s about the problems of Sri Lankan cricket, Kumar Sangakkara will be anxious to perform well. Both he and Mahela Jayawardene are class acts and have been terrifically consistent players for years, while skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Matthews are dangerously aggressive. Dilshan’s most recent form is poor however  –  he made just 24 runs in the series against England after breaking a finger in his 193 in the Lord’s Test  –  and Matthews shows some vulnerability against the short ball.

Sri Lanka’s bowling is not particularly strong and is just not the same without Malinga. Suranga Lakmal has been a good discovery, but there is no depth to the pace attack. Off-spinner Suraj Randiv will be challenging with his turn and bounce, and left arm orthodox Rangana Herath is useful, but Ajantha Mendis seems to have lost confidence and is often out of the side lately.

This is the start of a very important six-month phase of Australian cricket. Sri Lanka post Murali, Jayasariya and Vaas doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as in the past, and if the brilliant Shane Watson can lead the way as he usually does, Clarke’s tenure as leader might be off to a better start than many people imagine.



  1. Brendan,
    I would just like to say that your article in yesterday’s Age was an
    excellent synopsis on the state of Australian cricket. Excellent stuff.

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