Sri Lanka will look to wrap up their first ever series whitewash when they go up against Australia in Colombo starting Saturday.
Having already secured their second ever Test series win against Australia last week, Sri Lanka will be looking to put the icing on the cake with a 3-0 series whitewash when the two nations meet in Colombo starting this Saturday.
Can the Asians claim their first ever whitewash over Australia or will Steve Smith and his men salvage some pride after what has proven to be a calamitous tour so far? Let’s take a look.
Sri Lanka vs Australia | 13 August –17 August | R. Premadasa Stadium | Colombo, Sri Lanka
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 33/20 | Draw 33/10 | Australia 29/20
A magnificent all-round performance by Sri Lanka couple with some very lax play from Australia saw the Asians claim only their second series win over their more illustrious opponents. But before we go into their most recent series victory, let’s take a trip down memory road with a short recap of their previous moment of glory against the Australians. The previous series win came in 1999 where a Sanath Jayasuriya led Sri Lanka claimed a 1-0 over Steve Waugh’s Australia. While the second two Tests in that series ended as draws – the first was filled with all kinds of drama:
Play had to be stopped as a helicopter descended upon the Asgiriya Stadium where Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie endured one of the most sickening fielding collisions in the modern game. Waugh ran back from square leg and Gillespie came in from the boundary attempting to catch Mahela Jayawardene – the resulting collision left Waugh with a badly broken nose and Gillespie with a broken leg. As two of the Aussie’s most important players disappeared over the horizon, so did their hopes of saving the match against a fired up Sri Lankan side. The Asians would eventually go on to win by six wickets with the subsequent two matches ending in draws – both of which were badly affected by rain.
While the final Test of the current tour is unlikely to be as dramatic, we are set for an absolute humdinger of a match. The Sri Lankans are very much in a transitional phase at the moment, however, you wouldn’t think it judging from their performances so far.
Kusal Mendis and Lakshan Sandakan have emerged as two players with massive Test careers ahead of them if they can continue to build on their recent form. Mendis currently leads the run-scoring charts with 277-runs while Sandakan has picked up nine wickets in the series – bamboozling the Aussies with his left-arm chinamans.
It hasn’t just been the youngsters who have impressed, either. Angelo Matthews has matured as a player and a captain over the last few years and it’s showing in his batting. The burly middle order batsman now averages a shade under 50 and is slowly building a reputation as one of the best all-rounders in the game.
I can’t preview this game without mentioning Rangana Herath. The wily old off-spinner has been immense this series, underlining his credentials as one of the best in the business with a superb hat-trick. If the Sri Lankans are going to claim a whitewash, they’ll need Herath to be at his brilliant best.
The one area of concern for Graham Ford will be the form of his openers. Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne have only managed 34 runs between them in the first two Tests. You simply can’t be a top Test team without a solid opening partnership – whether or not Ford decides to stick it out with the two remains to be seen. I fell they’ll get another run, they could get the job done knowing that the pressure is off with the series having already been wrapped up.
It’s been a tour to forget for the Australians. Having recently been declared the best Test side in the world, the lowly Sri Lankans shouldn’t have posed any problems at all, however, a poor all-round showing has left Steve Smith’s side staring down the barrel. So where has it all gone wrong?
First of all, their batting has been rubbish. The usually reliable David Warner has battled for form. In four innings he’s only managed two scores of substance – a pair of 40’s in the second Test. We’re so used to seeing his push on after getting starts, attacking opposition attacks and batting the opposition out of the game. Of course, it’s always going to be more difficult in the Sub-Continent against guys like Herath and Sandakan. Perhaps a more subdued approach is required when the wicket is turning?
It’s not just the pint-sized opener who has struggled though, the entire Aussie line-up has struggled with the willow in hand. As much is evident when you go through the scorecards from the first two Tests. Not a single century and only one half century across four innings is simply not good enough at this level – especially when you have the likes of Warner, Smith, Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns and Adam Voges in your side.
While the batting hasn’t been great, the bowling hasn’t been much to write home about either. Only Mitchell Starc has shone, bagging 17 wickets in the series so far at an average of 13.47. He has been slightly on the expensive side, conceding just under four to the over. Australia’s other frontline seamer has been more economical at 2.60 while Nathan Lyon has conceded more than four an over this series. This seems to suggest that they’re simply not able to create any pressure with the hosts seemingly scoring at will.
I’m not sure whether or not any wholesale changes need to be made to the side. They’re all proven Test players who have proven their worth over a number of years. It just seems to be a case of everyone just losing form at the same time.
Verdict: Sri Lanka at 33/20
Sri Lanka have looked to be the better team throughout the series and I don’t really see that changing as we head to Colombo. They’ve played the conditions better so far and have all the momentum – get on at 33/20.
Value Bet: A hundred to be scored in the match: No at 6/1
A bit of a long shot here, but there has only been single century in the series so far. With the players heading to Colombo, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the spinners dominate and the batsmen struggle – a small stake at 6/1 could net you a tidy little profit.