Perth: Australia will be the favorites going into their second match of the CB Series against Sri Lanka - who have also played one match - at the WACA on Friday. Their form in the Tests and Twenty20s against India, and the way they annihilated the same opposition in the tri-series opener in Melbourne, points to a team with few issues to address, though knowing the manner in which the captain Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur function, it won't be surprising if the hosts aim for every member of their unit to perform beyond expectation.
Australia's latest success story had been the 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade, who has collected two rapid half-centuries against India to further push Brad Haddin's limited-overs claims out of the equation. His clean striking of the ball has been eye-catching, and though he has only been selected for Australia's first three ODIs he has done plenty to suggest he deserves an extended run. Another strong showing against Sri Lanka would enhance Wade's reputation.
There is speculation that Australia will rest David Warner and hand a debut to Queensland's Peter Forrest, but just how Clarke and Arthur will accommodate him is a tricky question. How do you remove one of Warner, Ricky Ponting or the Hussey brothers, who have been in good form against India? While Arthur has been eagerly awaiting the return of Shane Watson, the prospect of blooding another rookie may be too tempting, especially with selection for the upcoming Caribbean tour being a major focal point.
Australia's latest success story had been the 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade, who has collected two rapid half-centuries against India. (AFP)
The bowling is more straightforward. Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris and Clint McKay will be the three frontline pace bowlers, with Daniel Christian filling the allrounder's slot and Xavier Doherty the primary spinner.
For Sri Lanka, the main issue is to draft in a spinner into the XI. They only opted for Tillakaratne Dilshan's part-time offspin in Wednesday's fixture against India, and paid the price as India scampered to a four-wicket win. In stark contrast, India's two spinners - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - bowled 20 overs for 73 runs while taking four wickets between them. That the pair was also at the end having added a match-winning 53 run-stand was another matter that consigned Sri Lanka to another defeat at India’s hands.
Considering how much turn and bounce Ashwin purchased from the Perth wicket, it is highly likely that Sri Lanka will draft in Rangana Herath. If that happens, the man to sit out would be Lahiru Thirimanne, who failed to contribute batting at No. 8 and was not called on to bowl.
As always with Sri Lanka, so much of their success hinges on runs from the experienced trio of Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Dilshan (30.55), Sangakkara (39.72) and Jayawardene (31.56) all own decent batting averages in Australia, but those don't stack up against their pedigree. With each of these three batsmen heading towards the end of their careers, Sri Lanka really need the likes of Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal to score runs consistently and success against Australia in Australia is the benchmark. The team doesn’t have to look back too far to seek inspiration; in late 2010 they won their first ODI series in Australia.
This Sri Lankan team has had its share of problems of late, and a good way to lift the mood would be to start winning matches. Against a well-oiled Australia, it won't be easy.
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey/Peter Forrest 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Ryan Harris, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Clint McKay.
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Lahiru Thirimanne/Rangana Herath, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dhammika Prasad.