There hasn’t been a single phase of play in the T20I series between Australia and Sri Lanka where the latter have got the better of the home side. The Islanders were hammered in the first two encounters and chances of them avoiding a whitewash look very minimal.
Sri Lanka first lost in Adelaide by a record 134-run margin before getting thumped by nine wickets in Brisbane on Wednesday. They have little time to regroup as Australia will be itching to deliver that knockout blow in the third and final T20I in Melbourne on Friday (November 1).
Nothing has worked out for Sri Lanka so far in this series. Their batsmen have struggled heavily against Australia’s solid bowling attack, while bowlers under the leadership of Lasith Malinga have failed to stop the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith.
The highest score by a Sri Lankan batsman in this series is 27 and that tells you how awful they have performed. Kusal Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka and Danushka Gunathilaka got starts in the last game but just couldn’t get going. Meanwhile, Kusal Mendis has scores of 0 and 1 and Sri Lanka would want their premier batsman to step up in the final match and stand toe to toe against the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Billy Stanlake.
Sri Lanka doesn’t have a great bench strength but they could try someone like Shehan Jayasuriya who is yet to feature in this series. On the bowling front, the visiting team have only managed three wickets in the two games and have been smashed all around the park.
“The batsmen will have to be more responsible. Shot selection was not that great and we didn’t get any partnerships in the middle overs. We want to win the next game as this is a young side and it will give them confidence,” said Malinga, who himself has been way below par, after the second T20I.
Meanwhile, Australia will be without Glenn Maxwell who has withdrawn from the squad and will take a “short” break from cricket to deal with mental health issues. Dynamic left-hander D’Arcy Short has been named his replacement and will most likely play ahead of wicketkeeper-batsman Ben McDermott.
With unbeaten scores of 100 and 60 in the first two T20Is, Warner has been in sublime form. The left-handed opener has looked at utmost ease and has done the job for his team in both the games, while skipper Finch and Smith too have contributed in a game each. The Australian team management will be more delighted with Smith’s performance at the Gabba as he is yet to stamp his authority in the shortest format of the game.
Smith once again wouldn’t even have got a chance to bat if Australia would have got off to similar sort of start like they did in the first T20I. After Malinga dismissed Finch for a golden duck, Smith walked out to bat at No. 3 and put on a masterclass along with Warner. The two added 117 runs which is now the highest-ever second-wicket stand for Australia in T20Is.
Such has been the dominance of Australia’s top-order that the likes of Ashton Turner and Alex Carey haven’t got a chance to display their batting skills.
Mitchell Starc, who missed the second T2OI as he was away for his brother’s wedding, will straightaway walk into the playing XI. Billy Stanlake, who replaced Starc in Brisbane, had a wonderful outing and will most likely retain his place.
Kane Richardson has been economical in both the games but is the only Australian bowler to not take a single wicket in this series. Starc might come in for Richardson, while Pat Cummins might be rested if the team management wants to try out Sean Abbott and form a solid bench strength ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka might have lost the series but there’s still a lot to play for Malinga and Co. Meanwhile, Australia won’t put their guard down and will try to accomplish their first whitewash in a three-match series since 2014.
Australia Squad: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Steven Smith, D’Arcy Short, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (wk), Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Billy Stanlake, Adam Zampa, Sean Abbott, Ben McDermott.
Sri Lanka Squad: Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga (c), Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep, Shehan Jayasuriya, Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, Oshada Fernando.