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Sri Lanka – $4.33 at William Hill
Draw – $3.25 at Sportsbet
Australia – $2.05 at CrownBet
Sri Lanka – $2.10 at Sportsbet
Draw – $3.25 at CrownBet
Australia – $3.75 at CrownBet
AUSTRALIA have plenty of work to do if they wish to maintain their imperious winning record in Sri Lanka.
The Baggy Greens have lost only once on a Test tour of Ceylon – a 1-0 defeat in 1999 when Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie were both hospitalised after an on-field collision.
Up until last week, that was the only time Sri Lanka had beaten the Aussies in the long form of the game.
Angelo Mathews’ men were on the back foot again in Pallekele on day one, when they were rumbled for 117 inside 35 overs.
But they restricted the tourists to only 203 as the likes of Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Adam Voges failed to capitalise on solid starts.
The second innings was an entirely different story.
In at number four, 21-year-old Kusal Mendis made mince of Australia’s slim first-innings lead en route to a match-turning 176 – his maiden Test century.
Despite a spirited rescue effort by Peter Nevill and the injured Steve O’Keefe, the visitors fell more than 100 runs short of their 268 target as Rangana Herath cleaned up with five wickets.
Thus, the eternal question has been raised again: why can’t Australian batsmen play slow bowling in turning conditions?
Darren Lehmann was typically forthright in his appraisal.
“They’ve got to be better at decision-making,” the Australia head coach told reporters in Galle this week.
“The disappointing thing was we gave up a big lead. We should’ve made more runs in the first innings. We let them off the hook there.
“The positive was we got 20 wickets again. If we keep getting 20 wickets, it gives you a good chance that if your batters are making runs to win games of cricket.
“That was the pleasing thing for us, especially when we had a bowler down in the second innings. And there’s enough upside there that we know we’re on the right path with the type of team we want to play.
“It gets down to just the execution against their spinners really. We’ve been very good at first-innings runs in the last 12 months, and that was the big challenge.
“Your first-innings runs set up games, and that was what we needed to do.”
The public inquest is well underway regarding potential selection changes for the next Test.
Former captain Allan Border believes the Aussie XI must sacrifice a bowling option in order to strengthen the batting order.
“We’re not going to win games in the subcontinent when we score 360 runs across two innings,” Border told Fox Sports.
“We’ve got to do a better job with the bat and if that means more specialist batting in the line-up and backing our four bowlers to get our wickets then so be it. It’s not our usual method but we’ve got to find a better method for these pitches.
“Do we need both [Josh] Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc or even Mitchell Marsh? If he’s the best No.6, fair enough but if he’s not, maybe you’ve got to pick another batsman.”
First in line for a recall is Shaun Marsh, who averages exactly 80 in three Test innings in Sri Lanka.
Border added: “We went in with three quicks and Mitchell Marsh barely bowled.
“Is that how Australia is best served? We’ve got to ask if Shaun Marsh is a better player than Mitchell Marsh or Josh Hazlewood for this XI in these conditions.”
There will almost certainly be a Test debut for Victorian left-armer Jon Holland, who has joined the squad as a replacement for the injured O’Keefe.
“He’s obviously a very crafty left-arm spinner,” Lehmann said.
“We obviously had that loss of SOK [O’Keefe] in the second innings which hurt us. But injuries happen so you can’t complain about that.
“[Holland is] tall, he’s got good shape on the ball, he bowls at a decent pace. I’m sure he’ll have success here. We think it’s a really good way to go.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the wicket is, but I’m pretty sure we’ll play two spinners again. He’s always been thought of really highly.”
Second Test match betting tips
- Match result – Australia ($2.05)
- Highest opening partnership – Australia ($1.64)
- First innings lead – Australia ($1.45)
Australia don’t like losing, least of all to a country they’ve dominated for the best part of 33 years.
Sri Lankan soil remains the last safe haven in the Asian subcontinent for the Aussies, so a series defeat here would go down as something of a national tragedy.
All Australia need is one or two of their top-order bats to make good on a start and get some real runs on the board.
The first Test showed there’s no lack of firepower in the bowling stocks, and Holland is a more than handy replacement for O’Keefe.
With a bit more focus and some emphasis on fundamentals (like rotating the strike), the Aussies should square this series.
David Warner bet specials online
- To score 50 in the first innings – $2.50
- Top Australian runscorer in the first innings – $4
- To score a century in the first innings – $6.50
- Man of the match – $10
Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
After a stunning Indian Premier League campaign, the first Test in Sri Lanka was rather a harsh return to reality for David Warner.
His series average at present is a very humbling 0.50 after scores of 0 and 1 in Pallekele.
With Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja yet to truly assert themselves as dominant top-order players at this level, the Aussies need more out of their belligerent vice-captain.
Regardless of pitch conditions, Warner is too good and too important a player to be held so tamely two Tests in a row.
Sri Lanka vs. Australia Test squads
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Asitha Fernando, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva, Kaushal Silva.
Australia: Steven Smith (C), Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner.
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