Australia and Darren Lehmann embark on their ambitious ‘Project Asia’ with a three Test tour of Sri Lanka. The Emerald Island has always been a happy hunting ground for the Aussies and Steve Smith will hope to continue that legacy. The first match of the Warne-Muralitharan trophy will be played at Pallekele from Tuesday, July 26.
The Lankan team has been going through a painful transformation after the retirements of its legends. None of the new crop of batsmen are consistent to evoke thoughts of a revival. Kaushal Silva remains the only saving grace in recent times while Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews keep trying to rally the team with the bat.
The absence of regular bowlers through injuries is another big blow for the hosts. The presence of an untested second rung of bowlers increases the importance of Rangana Herath. The left-arm spinner who’s been their main stay ever since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan will be expected to wreak havoc on the spin-weary Aussie camp.
For all that has been said and written about this Aussie side, there still remains a doubt on their ability to adapt on the dry sub-continent pitches. The return of David Warner at the top and the presence of Adam Voges in the middle order is a huge boost considering their ease against the spinners. Another batsman who will be watched with considerable interest will be Usman Khawaja.
Bowling will revolve around Nathan Lyon although Steve O’Keefe will be high on confidence after his exploits in the practice game. The return of Mitchell Starc will be assessed with caution although he could prove to be a game changer for the Kangaroos.
If the sub-continent is a desert, then Sri Lanka is an oasis for the Aussies – they have won six Tests with just one loss in 13 matches across five tours in recent times. That could be a reason why there’s little value on an Australian victory with odds of $1.90 at William Hill.
Steve Smith will hope to continue his glut for runs and betting on him to be the best batsman for Australia at odds of $4.25 at William Hill is worth a bet. Watch out for Dinesh Chandimal with the bat who can be the hosts’ best batsman at odds of $4.50 at William Hill. With the ball, Lyon at odds of $4.00 and Herath at odds of $2.75 at William Hill are best bets for leading wicket takers.
Whichever way the ball is turning, this should be a fascinating Test series!
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