A more evenly balanced Australia-Sri Lanka battle in bid for momentum

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27 Oct 2021 | 07:19 PM
authorShubh Aggarwal

A more evenly balanced Australia-Sri Lanka battle in bid for momentum

Both sides won their first Super 12 fixture but only aced one of the two skillsets

Australia pasted Sri Lanka 3-0 the last time the two teams met in T20I, in 2019. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. Covid settled in various forms around the world, players learnt to cope with the bubble life, Sri Lanka changed a number of white-ball captains. More importantly, in context to Match 22 of the 2021 T20 World Cup, Australia’s T20 batting came crashing down. Their numbers since 2020 are subpar to the level it feels the Aussies have lost the gist of T20 cricket, especially against spin. 

That is what has narrowed the gap between the two teams. That is what will make Sri Lanka believe they can beat Australia. 

Both teams are coming off a win to kick-off their Super 12 fortunes. However, both teams ticked only one of the two skillsets. Sri Lanka stepped up with the bat after a lackluster bowling performance. Australia managed enough with the bat to cross the finish line against South Africa after a tight bowling display. The two sides would aim at building on that win as well as ironing out chinks from their previous win. 

Can Maxwell continue doing it all? 

A common theme of worry for Australia this World Cup is their over-reliance on Glenn Maxwell in the middle-overs. He is the only one who can play enforcer against spin given the success he has had with his audacious reverse sweeps. 

Sri Lanka have picked 47 percent of their wickets in this tournament with spin. Dubai has made power-hitting tough as the game has progressed. In the middle-overs, spinners have bowled at an economy of 6.5, the lowest among all venues in this World Cup. This puts the onus on Maxwell to put the impetus in the middle-overs and carry it for as long as possible. 

Not to forget, his bowling will be crucial in this contest. Sri Lanka have three left-handers in their top five, making Maxwell a potential four-over bowling resource. He has done quite well rolling his arm over in the Powerplay - snapping four wickets in eight T20 innings he has bowled in this year. 

Josh Hazlewood 2.0 

Josh Hazlewood did not play any form of T20 cricket for three years, from 2017 to 2019. The right-arm pacer has now remodeled himself to suit the dynamics of the format. In T20Is this year, the 30-year old has 14 wickets in nine matches at 15.7 runs apiece. The economy is 6.3. A majority of his wickets have come in the first six overs - 9. 

His modus operandi is still the same - consistency in the areas where he pitches the ball. Each of his nine Powerplay victims have come off the back of a length area. His bowling figures after three overs of his quota read 2 wickets for 7 runs. On a hard Dubai wicket, he hit that back of a length area consistently that deemed him nearly unhittable. Australia also have Pat Cummins, another pacer who can exploit that area. 

Sri Lanka are naturally not great players of that length and will have their task cut out against the new ball tackling Maxwell’s match-up against their left-handers and the hard lengths from Hazlewood and Cummins. 

Players to watch out for

Charith Asalanka seems to have graduated out of Michael Hussey’s school of batting. He doesn’t get bogged down. He is brilliant in rotating the strike. He scores runs all around the ground. He is great at piercing gaps to bring his boundaries. Moreover, he isn’t overwhelmed by any situation. It was clear in the way he built momentum and then carried with it, scoring a match-winning 80 off 49 balls. Impressed with his demeanour, the head coach Mickey Arthur has already called him the “generation next” of the Sri Lankan batting. 

David Warner will continue to attract eyeballs. He appeared in good touch during his brief stay against the Proteas. However, the Australian is also barren from the other end of their opening duo. Aaron Finch’s record in Asia is going from bad to worse. In T20Is, he averages 21.9 in Asia, half of his average in other continents (43.8). In UAE, he has scored only 10 runs in six matches. 

Probable XIs

Australia

Ashton Agar may continue to sit out owing to three left-handers in Sri Lanka’s batting-order. Hence, an unchanged side will be in order for Australia. 

Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka rested Maheesh Theekshana in their previous match against Bangladesh. The young spinner was undergoing a side strain and given a rest as a protective measure. This upcoming encounter against Australia may well have been the reason. Theekshana can startle the Aussies with his mystery spin. If fit, his inclusion is a no-brainer. 

Kusal Perera (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajaspaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana/Binura Fernando 

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Australia vs Sri LankaICC World Twenty20, 2021Sri LankaAustraliaCharith AsalankaMaheesh TheekshanaGlenn MaxwellJosh HazlewoodPat CumminsAaron FinchDavid Warner

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