After a T20 series which got more competitive the longer it went on, Sri Lanka and Australia now turn themselves to the 50 over format for a five match ODI series which gets underway in Pallekele on Tuesday.
Usually in ODI series at the minute we have World Cup qualifying issues at stake but that isn’t the case over the course of these matches so it is literally all about winning the series for the two and building something to go towards the World Cup next year.
Sri Lanka will be playing their first ODI series under new coach Chris Silverwood. The one thing they have going for them going into this opening match is the positivity that they have from winning the final T20 on Sunday. It wasn’t just that they won the match, which ultimately was a dead rubber after all, but the way they won it with some brutal hitting at the end and coming good from a seemingly impossible position. That should give them a lot of belief to take into this series.
If Sri Lanka are to draw first blood in this ODI series then you would imagine they are going to need a fair bit more from their top order than what we got in the T20 matches. They showed they have the depth to go big at the end of the innings but what they haven’t yet done is shown they can score big at the top. In the main they bowled well in the two matches which were competitive in the T20s so that is something they have to fall back on.
When you consider that Australia have been one of the forces in ODI cricket for the last 20 years or so, it is criminal how little 50 over cricket they have played over the last couple of years. Admittedly something has had to go because of the pandemic and the difficulty in getting teams over or wanting to be in bubbles for a long period of time, but even allowing for that Australia have been very light in 50 over cricket in recent times.
They have the chance to make amends for that with five matches in a row here though and these matches will be a godsend for them because they will be in conditions not too dissimilar to the ones they will find in India when they are there for the 50 over World Cup next year. Australia are always competitive with the ball in this format of the game. What we need to see is them get their batting balance right between now and that World Cup next year.
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It looks like Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Maheesh Theekshana are solid in their positions in the Sri Lanka ODI team and they could be joined by debutant Dunith Wellalage. Charith Asalanka is likely to drop into the middle order.
Australia are still without Adam Zampa while Kane Richardson picked up an injury during the T20s. Mitchell Starc was also injured but they do have Pat Cummins back for this leg of the tour. Alex Carey is expected to bat at number five.
I’m a little surprised that the boundary line for this match is as low as 45.5. Admittedly it was only Zimbabwe that toured Sri Lanka earlier in the year but there were still 65 boundaries in the first game, of which Zimbabwe scored 32, and 55 in the second game where Zimbabwe hit 29 boundaries. The third game was a blowout but the pitches had died by then. It was the only time in the three matches that Sri Lanka opened the bowling with a spinner.
I’m not saying I expect this to be the highest scoring match necessarily but if Zimbabwe are hitting this Sri Lanka attack for 32 and 29 boundaries then Australia are going to get after it as well. There were 46 boundaries in the T20 match here on Saturday which is quite a high number for these big Sri Lanka grounds so there is no doubt the pitch is playing well. Sri Lanka are more measured with the bat in this format but they still have players to get the ball to the boundary. This 45.5 line just looks too low. Hopefully it turns out to be in reality too.
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