Australia vs Sri Lanka: First T20 Preview

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Australia and Sri Lanka go head to head in the first of three T20 Internationals at the MCG this Friday. 

The fifth-ranked Australians take on the eighth-placed Sri Lankans in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals this week, with both eager to ward off the challenging rigours of a jam-packed touring schedule.

This busyness has forced absentees - and necessitated change - across both squads, while the Aussies have taken the approach even further by appointing two coaches for the three-match series.

Australia v Sri Lanka |  Friday, 17 February 2017 | Melbourne Cricket Ground | 10:40

To Win Match
Australia 29/100 | Tie 35/1 | Sri Lanka 26/10

Scheduling labelled as "very, very poor" by David Warner will see the hosts conclude this three-T20I affair a mere day prior to starting a Test series in India. 

Such a tight diary, therefore, has left the home side without several stars - including Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc - and reliant on the bulk of their bench strength.

With head coach Darren Lehmann, too, already in India, Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting will step into the coaching breach against Sri Lanka - and will have newish names like Ben Dunk, Michael Klinger, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jhye Richardson and Billy Stanlake at their disposal.

The late omission of Chris Lynn due to injury will require Ben Dunk to shoulder plenty of responsibility. The 2016-17 Big Bash League's leading run-scorer hardly tasted international cricket against South Africa in 2014, but three years later, is a lot more refined - and up to the task.

T20 International cricket is an appropriate breeding ground for the country's future stars, particularly in the fast-bowling ranks. While an injury-free Pat Cummins could soon be pushing for longer-format honours again, Tye, Stanlake and Richardson will be keen to make a name for themselves - in the shorter stuff, for now - in Melbourne and beyond.

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Sri Lanka
The islanders' recent tour of South Africa was a disappointing trip in the wake of heavy defeats in the Tests and ODI series. Those losses flanked triumph in the T20I series, though, and opportunity knocks for Sri Lanka to build on this.

They'll be without captain Angelo Mathews, whose stand-in Upul Tharanga has struck form at a key juncture. Confidence with the bat will bring him inspiration as a leader, but here's hoping his primary role with the willow, therein, doesn't start to slide.

While the handling - or mismanagement - of Dinesh Chandimal, who has effectively been sent back to club cricket is questionable, the void will offer others the opportunity to bed in for the future. Ongoing high hopes, then, for Niroshan Dickwella - a budding master blaster in his own right.

A key tour fixture against a Prime Minister's XI will provide Sri Lanka the chance to experiment with personnel - and a couple of combinations. Equal amounts of hard yards and leniency for the returning Lasith Malinga, however, must be a priority. The slingy pace ace has not played international cricket in almost a year -  and the hard and fast conditions and big boundaries on offer in Australia, particularly at the MCG, will suit his bid for a full resurgence.

Verdict: Sri Lanka, 26/10
Australia have not played a T20I since September 2016, when they had a plethora of stars to select - and were a lot less fragmented and under-resourced due to an increasingly busy touring schedule.  

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will be buoyed by this year's T20I success against South Africa - and will be relatively familiar with similar conditions experienced in Australia.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for

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