Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Friday 5 November, 2.20pm (AEDT) at SCG (Channel 9)
Australia’s one-wicket loss to Sri Lanka on Wednesday night was one of its most embarrassing in recent history.
The Australians seemed destined for an easy victory when Xavier Doherty trapped Nuwan Kulasekera LBW for a duck with the score at 8 for 107. At that stage, Sri Lanka was still 133 runs behind. However the Aussies bowled inaccurately when the pressure was on and once again failed to close out the game.
But don’t take anything away from the gutsy Sri Lankans. They never gave up and fought right till the very final ball of the match. Angelo Mathews produced one of the great One Day International innings’ of all time, compiling 77* off 84 balls.
With brilliant support provided by tailender Lasith Malinga (56 from 48 balls), Mathews guided his team to a remarkable come-from-behind victory in front of a large Sri Lankan contingent. In fact, the 132-run partnership between Mathews and Malinga was the highest ninth-wicket partnership in one-day cricket history.
There were two outstanding individual performances with the ball. Doherty was exceptional on debut with 4 for 46 from his ten overs, while Thisara Perera finished with 5 for 46, including three quick wickets which put Australia under great pressure.
It was also encouraging to see Michael Huseey get back amongst the runs with a patient 71* from 91 balls. However members of the media have criticised him for not taking the game on in the last few overs of Australia’s innings.
It’s hard to think of too many other international cricketers who have improved as much as Shane Watson has over the last 18 months. The 29-year-old has taken his game to a new level since overcoming niggling injuries and cementing his spot as an opening batsman in all forms of the game. And despite not taking a wicket on Wednesday night, it was also encouraging to notice that Watson was swinging the ball at speeds between 135 and 140km/h, meaning he still has a bit of zip. He must see off the new ball and compile a big score when batting, but also give solid backup to Australia’s pace attack at the change of innings.
Statistically, Muttiah Muralitharan is the most successful bowler of all time. The 38-year-old has taken over 1300 international wickets in both Tests and One Day Internationals; an amount many cricket experts predict will never be achieved again. However it was very surprising to notice that Muralitharan has only taken five wickets from seven one-day matches at the traditionally spin-friendly SCG. This match will be his last on the ground, so he will have to make the most of his ten overs in order to put his country in a winning position.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS:
As mentioned earlier, the SCG is traditionally regarded as Australia’s best pitch for spin bowlers. A lack of pace and bounce off the wicket has meant that sides have played more than one specialist spinner in a match. Both teams have good slow bowling options too and will attempt to make the most of the situation. The weather forecast for Sydney doesn’t look too promising though, with isolated showers expected and a top temperature of 18 degrees. So it’s likely we could see a reduced-overs encounter.
There are likely to be a few changes to the Australian side for this match. Callum Ferguson has been drafted into the squad to replace the injured Shaun Marsh, but is unlikely to play, as skipper Ricky Ponting returns to the team following the death of his grandmother. Nathan Hauritz is also available for selection, but he will find it tough to force his way back into the side after Doherty’s outstanding debut performance. However Hauritz could replace leg-spinner Steve Smith, who was clearly carrying an injury in the field last game. Fellow New South Welshman Mitchell Starc carried the drinks for his country in Melbourne but is a strong chance to replace Peter Siddle for this game in front of his home crowd and he’ll be hoping to impress ahead of next year’s World Cup. Here is how the Australians will likely line up:
- Shane Watson
- Brad Haddin (WK)
- Ricky Ponting (C)
- Michael Clarke
- Cameron White
- Michael Hussey
- Steven Smith/Nathan Hauritz
- Mitchell Johnson
- John Hastings
- Xavier Doherty
- Peter Siddle/Mitch Starc
Despite their phenomenal win in Melbourne, question marks still hover over some of the members of Sri Lanka’s top-order. The man who might be under the most pressure is Chamara Silva after an uncharacteristic and undisciplined dismissal at a crucial stage in the game. He is normally a wise and patient middle-order batsman who brings stability to the crease in times of need. All-rounder Jeevan Mendis is the man who could replace Silva, but the Sri Lankan selectors would be silly to experiment with a winning formula. Here is how Sri Lanka should line-up:
- Upul Tharanga
- Tillakaratne Dilshan
- Mahela Jayawardene
- Kumar Sangakkara (C & WK)
- Chamara Silva/Jeevan Mendis
- Angelo Mathews
- Thisara Perera
- Suraj Randiv
- Nuwan Kulasekera
- Lasith Malinga
- Muttiah Muralitharan
The Australians have now lost their past six One Day Internationals in a row, a big concern with the Ashes now just three weeks away. They simply have to bounce back in order to win back the respect of their fans and the cricket world.
But the scary thing for the Aussies is that Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara admitted his team performed nowhere near its best despite a remarkable win on Wednesday night. He said he was very disappointed with some ordinary performances from top-order batsmen and their fielding could do with some improvement.
If Sri Lanka wins today, it will be the first time in its history that it has won a one-day series in Australia. More importantly, it will prove that the Sri Lankans have become one of the classiest outfits in the world.
With the Australians under enormous scrutiny, the Sri Lankans should be able to use the pitch – a similar one to what you would find in Sri Lanka – to their advantage and carry the momentum from their win in Melbourne to secure the series in Sydney.