Sri Lanka – $2.75 with Sportsbet.com.au
Draw – $2.90
Australia – $2.80
WHILE this is a dead rubber contest that means very little to the Sri Lankans, a number of Australian cricketers will be playing for their careers when they step out in the third Test on Saturday.
Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and to a lesser extent Adam Voges are all under the pump after under performing in both Tests.
The slow bowlers haven’t fared much better, with Steve O’Keefe injured and both Nathan Lyon and debutante Jon Holland ineffective.
Australia let the Sri Lankans off the hook in the first innings in Galle, with Kusal Mendis backing up a big ton with another 86 and captain Angelo Mathews (54) and Kusal Perera (49) helping the hosts to 281.
Mitch Starc ran through with 5/44, while Lyon bagged 2/78.
In reply, the Australians were downright disgusting, surrendering for just 106 – and opener David Warner made nearly half of those with 42. Only Marsh (27) and Khawaja (11) reached double figures in a shocking effort by the Aussie bats.
They were destroyed by Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, who both bagged four wickets.
The Lankans then piled on another 237, Dilruwan backing up his bowling effort with 64, leaving the Aussies to chase 413 after Starc bagged 6/50. They never got close, skittled for 183, with Perera taking another six to give him 10 for the match.
Remarkably, only captain Steve Smith has looked any way at home against the devastating spin of the Sri Lankans, and only he (120 runs at 30) and Mitch Marsh (101 at 25.25) have managed to score over 100 runs in the series for the Australians.
It’s a damning indictment on the Aussie’s inability to handle spinning tracks and, while they are talking a tough game ahead of the third Test, we’re not buying it.
Player props tips
Top team runscorer
Australia – Mitchell Marsh ($8 with Sportsbet)
Can he finally go on with it? Every batsman has had question marks over their ability to play spin, but the all-rounder – who has rarely bowled – is among the very few who have looked comfortable against the tweakers. Problem is, he gets away early and, whether it’s a mental or a fitness issue, he throws it away in the 20s or the 30s. The Aussie selectors have put endless faith in him to deliver and maybe, just maybe, he helps the Aussies stave off the embarrassment of losing 3-0 to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka – Kusal Mendis ($4.33 with Sportsbet)
Mendis has perhaps been the find of the series for the Sri Lankans. He looks just about unbeatable when he gets going, as evinced by his exquisite shotmaking on the way to a brilliant 176 in the second innings of the first Test. He backed that up with 86 in the first innings of the second Test and is the series leading runscorer.
Top team wicket-taker
Australia – Mitchell Starc ($3 with Sportsbet)
You can’t go past Starc here. He is the only Aussie cricketer that can hold his head up high in this series. That ridiculous 11-wicket match he churned out in the second Test should have been enough to lead the Australians to victory, but the batsmen just could not get the job done. The spinners have also been unable to get any results and that means the bulk of the work has fallen on the speedster’s shoulders. He has not shirked the issue and is in perhaps the form of his life, extracting pace and bounce out of the lifeless Lankan wickets.
Sri Lanka – Dilruwan Perera ($4 with Sportsbet)
Take your pick of the spin pair when it comes to the top wicket-takers for the Sri Lankans. Herath is the favourite at $2.70, but his junior partner, although lacking in experience, is every bit as talented and his 10 wickets in the last game tell us that the Aussies have no clue against him.
Match result: Sri Lanka wins ($2.75 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Highest opening partnership: Australia ($1.51 with Sportsbet)
The Aussies say this is not a dead rubber for them and that is true in the sense that they have several players who will be hunting big performances in order to save their careers.
But the visitors can talk all they want; the fact is they are simply not good enough when it comes to spin bowling and you can’t fix that over night.
We think the young Sri Lankan side will go in for the kill and make sure the Aussies are embarrassed with a 3-0 whitewash.
As far as the opening partnerships go, you may as well flip a coin, because early wickets have fallen in all four innings so far in the series.
Neither side has been able to put a meaningful opening stand together, but perhaps Burns will show a little fight and give Warner a worthy foil.
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