The ODI series between Sri Lanka and Australia continues on Thursday when the two sides meet for a second time in Pallekele in what feels like it could be a pivotal match in a series, which overall doesn’t mean a great deal other than it represents a chance to get back to competing in the format.
With that in mind Sri Lanka will want the series to be competitive for as long as possible so they will be hoping to level up the score here having dropped the opening game of the series. Australia have the chance to go two up with three to play and assume full control of proceedings.
When you consider that Sri Lanka went into the opening match about doubts over whether they would be good enough to compete with Australia in this format let alone win a match, they would have been pretty satisfied with their performance in it if they weren’t quite happy with the result. They competed well in all departments and in the end it was just a wonderfully brutal innings which got the better of them overall.
If Sri Lanka can repeat that display but just fine tune the edges then we saw enough to suggest that they can not only be competitive in this series but can win matches. They are going to need more players to step up to the plate but they will have confidence that their plan and methods work because they ran Australia so close. It might be that had the rain not come and given Australia the chance to regroup then it would be the home side going into this second match with the lead in the series.
Many would have expected Australia to dominate in this series because they have such a rich history in this format of the game. There were doubts over whether the conditions would suit them but they have won in Asia before. They got off to a winning start but they weren’t as dominant as they were expected to be, although with a few players playing in their first match on the tour they probably have more in the tank so there should be even more to come from them.
Australia were not as disciplined or reliable with the ball in that opening game as we would have expected them to be, but it was a good batting pitch and to be fair to the bowlers it wasn’t the easiest deck to apply pressure to the batters. I didn’t think Australia used their batting order right in the match but their big hitters got to the crease with just enough time to be able to play themselves in before expressing themselves and getting their team home.
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Sri Lanka will be forced into at least one change for this match with Wanindu Hasaranga ruled out with a groin strain. To say that is a blow is an understatement because he is effectively two players in one. They can either replace him with a bowler in Jeffrey Vandersay or a batter in Bhanuka Rajapaksa.
Australia are going to have to make changes as well because Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Agar have been ruled out of this encounter. Travis Head has been called into the squad and is expected to be the replacement for Stoinis. Mitchell Swepson could come in for Agar.
This match is expected to be played on a fresh pitch but this will still be the third game of cricket at this ground in five days so whichever pitch gets used there is going to be an element of dryness in it which is likely to keep the spinners interested. With that in mind, I like the player performance of Glenn Maxwell here. We saw in the first game the level of explosive damage he can do with the bat in hand and there is nothing to suggest he won’t do that again here.
Where he might come into the game more is with the ball in hand. Maxwell bowled a full allocation of 10 overs in the first game without taking a wicket and with no Ashton Agar and there potentially being another left hander in the Sri Lanka side here I would expect Maxwell to bowl plenty of overs here too, especially if the Australian seamers don’t get themselves into the game. Maxwell is also a gun fielder and coming off a match where he has just scored 80 points I think he can cover 42.5 points here.
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