Sydney:After three Test defeats in which they were pushed nearly to the ground, followed by a tied ODI contest in which they were robbed of a great chance of a series win due to an abandonment, two Twenty20 internationals could be seen as a welcome release for some of the Sri Lankan players.
The one-day series was shared after Australia beat Sri Lanka by 32 runs on Tuesday, leaving this two-match contest as Sri Lanka’s last shot at taking home some memorable silverware. It has been a long and difficult tour for them, with defeats in all three Tests and injuries to key players followed by a leveled 50-overs leg. But in Twenty20 the Sri Lankans can claim the upper hand over Australia on the basis of looking a better team in the format. They are not ranked No. 1 without reason.
Sri Lanka were ICC World Twenty20 finalists at home in September and have beaten Australia in their last three meetings in the format. The last time these two teams met, Sri Lanka came out with an eight-run win at Pallekele in 2011 to claim the series 2-0. On that occasion Australia were flummoxed by Ajantha Mendis’s magical spell of 6 for 16, then the best figures in T20I history. Considering Australia’s struggles against Sri Lanka’s bowlers in the ODI series, the captain George Bailey will hope history doesn’t repeat itself.
Sri Lanka have largely the same Twenty20 squad as the one-dayers, though the captaincy will shift from Mahela Jayawardene to Angelo Mathews. Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan are looking the likely openers, followed by wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal, Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne and the allrounders Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera. Mathews is likely to share the medium-pace responsibilities with Nuwan Kulasekara – Man of the Series in the ODIs – and Lasith Malinga. Ajantha Mendis will lead the spin bowling, while offspinner Akila Dananjaya, who claimed five wickets in three games at the World Twenty20, should get his fourth cap.
Australia’s Twenty20 squad looks distinctly different from the one-day unit, with only Bailey, David Warner and Matthew Wade the batsman whom Sri Lanka encountered recently. Aaron Finch, Player of the Series in this season’s Big Bash League (BBL), returns to partner Warner; Shaun Marsh has been recalled after topping the BBL run charts with 412 at 58.85; and Adam Voges, Ben Laughlin and James Faulkner have also rewarded for their domestic efforts. Mitchell Starc and Ben Cutting – who made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka – will lead the bowling with 22-year-old Faulkner hoping to impress at the international level.
Victory at the SCG will also ensure Sri Lanka retains its No. 1 ranking in the ICC Twenty20 international rankings. If Australia sweep the series, Sri Lanka will fall to fourth place and West Indies will rise to the top spot.
Australia: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 David Warner, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Adam Voges, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Ben Cutting, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 James Faulkner
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene, 3 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 4 Angelo Mathews (capt), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Lasith Malinga