With the Test series loss to India, Australia now fall to fifth in the ICC World Test Rankings behind India, South Africa, England and New Zealand. Their upcoming two Test series againt Sri Lanka which gets underway on Thursday, the 24th of January now has added importance as the Aussies fight to regain some confidence ahead of an Ashes series on away soil later this year.
We take a look at the first Test against Sri Lanka, starting on Thursday from The Gabba and give our betting tips below.
After a disappointing 2-1 series loss to the Indians on home soil, the Australian selectors swung the axe ahead of their two-match series with Sri Lanka. Ousted were both Mitch and Shaun Marsh as well as Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch to make way for Sheffield Shield stars, all of whom will be hoping to make an impact at Test level in the lead up to the Ashes series.
Queensland opener Matt Renshaw comes into the squad and will likely replace Aaron Finch at the top of the order while Joe Burns, Will Pucovski and Kurtis Patterson all come in as batsman. Along with them, youngster Marnus Labuschagne keeps his spot in the squad after being a late call up for the Sydney Test against India. Burns has been in great form in the Shield season and loves playing at his home ground at The Gabba. Looks a good bet to top the Aussies batting this week.
The bowling should be a much more straightforward proposition for the Australian selectors. Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon will fill their usual spots; however, Josh Hazelwood has been ruled out of the series through injury. He will likely make way for Peter Siddle or Jhye Richardson, who are the only two other fast bowlers in the squad.
The Sri Lankans will need to fill two spots in their top six from the team that took on New Zealand in their last Test back in December. Star all-rounder Angelo Matthews has been ruled out of the tour with injury while struggling opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka was not selected in the squad. Making up the other four spots in the top six will be captain Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis. Of this quartet, Karunaratne has been the most adept in recent history, racking up at least 50 in eight of his last 14 innings including a brilliant 158* against South Africa to set up a series opening win last year.
Niroshan Dickwella has been a servicable gloveman for the Sri Lankans in recent history and looks set to reprise that role while the bowling stocks will be led by pacemen Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara and spinner Dilruwan Perera. The final pace spot in the team for Thursday might be up for grabs between Kasun Rajitha and Dushmantha Chameera, who played one Test each against New Zealand in the December series.
The Sri Lankans definitely have a talented line-up, one capable of beating the South Africans 2-0 in a two-match series at home last year. However, they are a different team away from home. They have failed to win a Test match in their last five games, dating back to a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of England last year as well as the 1-0 defeat to New Zealand in December. However, they are probably meeting Australia at the right time as the home side are in the midst of a transition phase.
The Gabba usually produces a fairly fast and bouncy wicket and the Big Bash League has promoted that so far this season. Even without Hazlewood, the Australian’s still possess the better fast bowling unit and should be able to get back on the winners list, but at just $1.25, there’s not much meat left on the bone.
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