The T20 series between the world champions Australia and Sri Lanka continues on Tuesday when the two sides head to Canberra for the third game of the five. They do so knowing that if Australia win this match they will win the series with two matches to spare.
Sri Lanka were much improved in the second game but couldn’t quite get over the line. That means their backs are going to be against the wall for the remainder of the series. They will be looking to keep it alive with a win here.
They won the second match but Australia won’t have been entirely happy with their display in the game. In the first 10-12 overs of their batting innings it looked like they might completely dominate the contest but the longer their knock went on they started to fade and in the end had only just about made it a par score. They would still have defended that with ease had it not been for a shambolic fielding display by their usually very high standards.
To be fair to Australia, they held their nerve to come through the super over but that is a couple of matches on the trot in which they haven’t completely impressed. Whether the off field coaching saga has had an impact on things on the pitch only they will know but there looks to be something missing in their ranks. To be fair it is the sign of a good side when they win without playing their best stuff but they will want to put in a complete performance soon.
We expected there to be a natural improvement in the Sri Lanka side from the first game to the second one and we most definitely got that. There might be even more to come from them as well. Sri Lanka improved with both the bat and the ball from the first game into the second one but it was with the bat where it was most apparent. That wasn’t a surprise as having had no warm up match their batters were entitled to need a game to acclimatise themselves to conditions.
While it was a much better batting performance, they lost wickets at the top of the order, so if they can sort that out and set a better platform then we saw at the end of the innings in the second match that they have what it takes to capitalise and score big runs. Sri Lanka bowled well at the death in the second game and if they can just find an early wicket or two at the top they can certainly give their hosts plenty to think about once again.
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Australia are going to be without Steve Smith for this match and the remainder of the series after he suffered a concussion towards the end of the match on Sunday. Moises Henriques appears to be in line to replace him. The rotation of the bowlers could see Pat Cummins or Josh Hazlewood getting a rest. Mitchell Starc could return but Jhye Richardson might be tried too.
Sri Lanka will be able to call on the services of Kusal Mendis for the first time in the series. He has served his isolation period and is likely to come in for Danushka Gunathilaka, who has offered little of note. Binura Fernando remains in isolation though.
I thought Sri Lanka would cause Australia a few problems in the previous match and I see no reason why that can’t happen again here. Australia are starting to miss a key man to two too many for my liking whereas Sri Lanka are getting some of theirs back. That should make the ability of the two sides come together a little more and when you consider the tourists only lost in a super over on Sunday, that suggests Sri Lanka have every chance in this match.
I’m not yet in a position where I trust Sri Lanka to win outright but I certainly think they can put up a good challenge and push Australia close. The only real difference in the two sides so far has been Josh Hazlewood and there is a chance that he will be rested for this match. Sri Lanka were markedly better in the second game and with Kusal Mendis back they should be better here. The handicap gives them a start of 5.5 wickets and 26.5 runs. They have taken six wickets and nine wickets in the first two matches and are now scoring runs so I think taking them with that advantage is the way forward here.
Back Sri Lanka (+5.5wickets/26.5runs) to beat Australia for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Bet365