After the disastrous tour to England, Sri Lanka is all set to face Australia in three Test matches, five ODIs and two T20s in the coming weeks.

Free Hit contributor

The tour of England was a nightmare for Sri Lanka as they couldn’t register a single win on tour, even in the practice games; although they won the two ODI matches against Ireland in Ireland, overall it was a forgettable tour.

Australia, the number one team in the world in both Tests and ODIs, will surely be a stern test for Sri Lanka, however, it is also a very good opportunity for them to bounce back after the disastrous England tour with home conditions and the lack of experience in the Australian camp in Sri Lankan conditions giving them a small advantage. Only Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh have played test matches in Sri Lanka while skipper Steven Smith has played 5 ODIs in 2011; the rest are yet to play a game here.

The last 3 Tests played in Sri Lanka were against India and the wickets in P. Sara and SSC had good carry which the pace bowlers enjoyed with Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Dhammika Prasad getting lots of wickets. The venues for the Australia Tests are Pallekelle, SSC and Galle. Galle traditionally favours spin, SSC and Pallekelle have good carry and will favour both pace bowlers and spinners. It will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka will prepare wickets that will assist faster bowlers or go with the traditional spin-friendly surfaces.

Australia’s strength in bowling has generally been in the pace bowling department. Mitchell Starc is very much like Mitchell Johnson, bowling 3 balls outside off, 2 short and one full, very fast and very straight to surprise the batsman. Accuracy has never been Starc’s strength and just like Johnson he depends on pace to intimidate batsmen. Josh Hazlewood is more of a line and length bowler and moves the ball off the seam well. Nathan Coulter Nile is yet to play a Test match and Jackson Bird who has only played 5 Test matches may struggle in unhelpful conditions. It will be interesting to see the Australian pace bowlers’ tactics and how they adapt to spinning conditions. In 2001 the England fast bowlers arrived in Sri Lanka and bowled lots of cutters, containing the Lankan batsmen as they won the series 2-1. The Australian bowlers, on the other hand, are not known to bowl variations; they might stick to a 2 pace bowlers, 2 spinners bowling combination with Mitchell Marsh being the fast bowling all-rounder.

Australia will rely a lot on Nathan Lyon’s spin; he’s a underrated bowler with a beautifully balanced run up, excellent grip and a wonderful loop and flight and will surely enjoy the spinning conditions. Steven O’Keefe needs to support Lyon with tight lines and accurate lengths.

Australia’s main strength under Darren Lehmann has been the consistency in their batting in Test matches. David Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges are all averaging over 50 with Voges averaging 95 in Tests; in his last 13 innings he has made 1096 runs at an average of 156.57 including 2 double hundreds, two hundreds and four fifties.

Along with Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Hashim Amla, AB Devilliers and Kane Williamson, Steven Smith has been one of the most consistent batsmen in all forms of the game for the last 4 years.

The indifferent form of Sri Lanka’s batsmen in England was a real worry, I think they should stick to Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Milinda Siriwardena and Kusal Perera as their top 7 and have Ashen Silva as the backup batsman as he has been very consistent in domestic matches in the last few years.

The bowling was not up to par in England; Nuwan Pradeep bowled decently but the injuries to Dhammika Prasad and Dushmantha Chameera left our attack toothless. Suranga Lakmal and Shaminda Eranga weren’t consistent enough with line and length and with both of them out of contention to play, Sri Lanka will need to introduce some new blood into the squad. Rangana Herath will bounce back for sure as he’s always been excellent in home conditions. In my opinion Sri Lanka need to add anattacking spinner to the team to support Herath, with Dilruwan Perera looking like the best candidate for the job.

Sri Lanka has a poor record against Australia in Tests and will need to be at their best if they are to beat the World’s No. 1 Test team.

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