Sri Lanka and Australia go head to head in the first of three Tests in Pallekele on Tuesday morning.
Sri Lanka will look to claim only their second ever Test series win against Australia when the two nations meet in a three-match series with matches scheduled for Pallekele, Galle and Colombo.
Can Angelo Matthews and his boys build on their decent showing in England or will the Australians blow the Asian minnows away in their own back yard?
Sri Lanka vs Australia | 26 July – 30 July | Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 8/1 | Draw 13/10 | Australia 9/10
The Sri Lankans come into this match as heavy underdogs against the Australians who currently sit comfortably atop the ICC Test Rankings. The Asians, however, will take a bit of heart from the last game of their 2-0 series loss against England.
While they never really turned up in the first two matches, they put in a brilliant display at Lord’s, albeit on a fairly benign pitch. It’ll be a different story on Sub-Continent pitches, however, where the spinners are likely to dominate.
Sri Lanka have named quite a big squad, especially considering they’re playing at home. There is plenty of room for debuts with the likes of Dhananjaya da Silva, Vishwa Fernando or Roshan Silva – one feels that Fernando is the most likely of the three to crack the nod when you consider how many of Sri Lanka’s first choice bowlers have been ruled out of the series through injury.
Fernando, although uncapped for the national side, has plenty of first-class experience. While I haven’t seen any of him as of yet, he apparently has quite a low action and generates a skiddy type of pace, similar to Dale Steyn. He’s played 44 first class matches, claiming 127 wickets at an average of 30.70.
While it'll be interesting to see how Fernando goes on debut, one feels that the most important cog in the host’s machine will be Rangana Herath. The left-arm orthodox from Kurunegala is deadly in the longest format of the game as the English found out earlier this year. He bowled beautifully claiming seven wickets and generally keeping things tight from his end. How well his support cast bowl will likely determine how competitive the Sri Lankans are in this series.
Another area of worry for the Sri Lankans is their batting line-up. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva will make up a very brittle-looking opening partnership with the fantastic Kusal Mendis coming in at three. There is a bit of experience further down the order with Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Matthews who will provide a bit of solidity.
All in all, this isn’t the worst Sri Lankan team that’s ever taken to the field, although I don’t think they can hold a candle to the Australians. We’ll just have to wait and see, though.
The Aussies are different class at the moment, and are undefeated this calendar year, sweeping aside New Zealand both home and away as well as strolling to victory at home against a very wobbly West Indies outfit.
They’ll be targeting another big win in Sri Lanka as they gear up for much bigger series against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan. Steve Smith and his boys got their tour off to the perfect start, crushing the Sri Lankan XI by an innings and 162 runs last week in Colombo.
Steve O’Keefe was the star there for the Aussies as he picked up ten wickets in the match while also top scoring in his side’s only innings with 78*. The Malaysian-born spinner has only ever played two Tests and will be looking to get a few more under his belt before he retires – returning batting and bowling figures like he did against the Sri Lankan XI won’t do his chances any harm. It’ll be interesting to see how well he does against more quality opposition.
While we can speak all day about the Aussie bowling line-up, their real strength lies in their ability to bury teams under an avalanche of runs. When your top six is made up of David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh; there’s really no team in the world you need to fear.
If the weather holds – which doesn’t look likely – the Australians should have no problem winning this game. They’re stronger in every single department and would probably only need to bat once in order to secure the win.
The Venue: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
What do the people of Pallekele have to do to watch a bit of live cricket without the threat of monsoon-like rain? Local weather stations are predicting heavy rain and thunderstorms for the duration of the game.
In the event that the weather does hold, the pitch has a bit of grass covering which should be cut away before the start of play. There should be plenty of assistance for the spinners in the latter stages of the game.
Verdict: Draw 13/10
There is some serious value here, especially considering how much rain is meant to fall in Pallekele this week. I’m not even sure whether we’ll get any play in over the five days, but the draw looks a fairly safe bet if the weather does play a part.
Value Bet: David Warner to top score in Australia’s first innings at 11/4
I’d avoid a value bet here just to be safe, however, if you absolutely must have a punt, take David Warner to top score for the Aussies at 11/4 – that is assuming they’ll even bat. 11/4 offers excellent value, and knowing Warner, he’s likely to have a go if there’s very little possibility of a result.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.