Sri Lanka and Australia look to carry on Super 12 momentum
Both enjoying first-up Group 1 victories, the match-up provides a number of intriguing battles, with Australia’s pace battery and Sri Lanka’s spin threat both capable of cutting through.
On the batting side, it could be argued that the juxtapositions continue. While on paper Australia has strength at the top of the order, through the middle overs runs have been hard to come by. For Sri Lanka, the opposite has been the trend. Limping through Powerplays, the likes of Avishka Fernando and Wanindu Hasaranga have often stood tallest through the middle.
Sri Lanka, entering the Super 12 stage through the tournament’s First Round, have passed every single test thus far on their winding campaign. Negotiating the challenges of Namibia, Ireland and the Netherlands, Dasun Shanaka’s men also brushed aside Bangladesh, who entered from the other four-team group.
Australia, while the favoured side on paper, are somewhat less proven. With a number of players returning to the squad for the T20 World Cup, a first-up victory against South Africa was far from convincing, chasing a target of 119 with just two balls to spare.
The teams share eight wins each in their 16-match head-to-head record, with Aaron Finch’s men boasting wins in the last four meetings. It includes a 3-0 series sweep in Australia back in October 2019, where Aaron Finch and David Warner among others filled their boots with runs in favourable conditions.
Since that series, Australia have not celebrated the same success. Winning just five of their 16 T20Is in 2021, hard truths have been realised for Justin Langer’s men. Struggling in New Zealand, the West Indies and Bangladesh, mostly without the core of the best possible team, the team’s balance and tactics have been questioned from all directions. For Langer and others selecting the side, piecing together a team capable of a performance greater than the sum of its parts is paramount.
On the other side, Sri Lanka have silenced questions surrounding their line-up, finding a winning formula through the First Round. Problems at the top of the order through a lack of runs from Kusal Perera and Pathum Nissanka have been somewhat remedied, by the likes of Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. For Sri Lanka’s bowling, exposing Australia’s middle order through early inroads is crucial, though will be encouraged by the work of those entrusted with the new ball. Chamika Karunaratne in particular has found swing in the Emirati air, with bowling speeds up across the group.
Both teams will target this encounter as almost a must-win if they have aspirations of moving into the final four.
- Match: Australia v Sri Lanka
- Time: 18:00 local time 28 October 2021
- Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Australia’s team is likely to be unchanged from the win over South Africa, though questions remain in regards to the batting order needing to improve from the first match. Marcus Stoinis looks entrusted with the death-over role, with Matthew Wade’s floating in the order.
Possible Australia XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
Sri Lanka may have found their preferred side by virtue of First Round action, with most facets covered thanks largely to clever all-round talent. Having both made only one score of note each in the First Round, Kusal Perera and Pathum Nissanka’s performances could be under the microscope. Expect Maheesh Theekshana to return to the XI after overcoming a side injury.
Possible Sri Lanka XI: Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana
The glue of Australia's batting line-up, and crucial with ball in hand, Maxwell's contributions will undoubtedly go a long way to Australian tournament success.
Stepping up as Aaron Finch's second spin threat behind Adam Zampa, Maxwell finished with 1/24 (4) in against South Africa, claiming opposition captain Temba Bavuma in a spell of 1/11 in the Powerplay,
It's with the bat though that Maxwell truly holds the key. Adept at playing spin and in slow conditions, keeping up the pace in the middle overs falls almost solely on his shoulders.
Coming off a destructive 80 not out from 49 balls against Bangladesh, the 24-year-old has made a fine start to his T20I career, averaging 37.50 with the bat, at a strike rate of 120.96.
Moved around the batting order to find his best spot, it's perhaps encouraging for Dasun Shanaka that the left-hander enjoys batting in the No.3 and No.4 position, given the struggles of his team's top order troubles. Capable against both quick bowling and the guile of spin, Asalanka's capabilities make him a logical selection as part of Sri Lanka's spine.
While a defeat would not spell the end of either campaign, both teams will feel a win is vital in this fixture, given the perceived strength across the rest of the group.
Expert Dream XI Fantasy Tips
Captaincy pick - Wanindu Hasaranga
The Sri Lankan all-rounder has to be the top captaincy pick for your fantasy team in this match, given his performances so far in the T20 World Cup. He has scored 77 runs and taken six wickets in four matches. In the current calendar year, he has taken 26 wickets in 16 T20I matches at an economy rate of just 5.52. His career bowling strike rate of 14 could prove to be the game-changer for Sri Lanka, as well as for fantasy players!
Must-have - Glenn Maxwell
The Australian is in great form in the T20 format, amassing 824 runs in 30 matches played in 2021. To add to that, he has scored 281 runs at a strike rate of 224.80 in four T20Is against Sri Lanka. Maxwell even has three wickets against the Lankan lions in this format. He came into the tournament in great form, and is an all-round threat, making him a must-have for any fantasy team in this clash.
What they said
Matthew Wade, Australian wicket-keeper, on Sri Lanka: "They're a terrific team. They're going to challenge us with a fair bit of spin I would have thought. There could be up to 12 overs of spin I reckon that we'll probably face."
"They're going to be hard work. We're going to have to be at our best to beat any team in this tournament, Sri Lanka will certainly be no different."
Mickey Arthur, Sri Lanka coach on the pressure being on the opposition: "There was a lot of pressure on us there (the First Round), and now the pressure is reversed because we come into this phase with not much to lose.
"We're playing good cricket, we're very dangerous, the players are very clear on what their roles are, and we're confident we can beat anyone on our day."