Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Test – Pallekele, Kandy
Pallekele hosts the first of three Tests between Sri Lanka and Australia. The touring Australian’s return to Sri Lanka for a full tour for the first time in five years and come into the series as the world’s number one ranked side in the games longest format. Since batting collapses mid-Ashes 2015 that saw them bowled out for 136, 265, 60 & 253, Steve Smith’s Australia have been almost relentless in their pursuit of big runs and Test victories. In 7 of the last 8 non-rain affected first innings they have racked up 481 or more, winning 7 of the last 9 Tests since being bundled out for 60 at Trent Bridge in that Ashes defeat. Sri Lanka have just returned from a chastening tour of the UK as well, in which they got thumped in all three formats by England and have lost five of their last six Test series.
Kandy has a tropical climate and rain can fall all year round without warning. The forecast has got worse over the past week to such an extent, some bookies are odds-on this will be a drawn Test, due more to the potential of large chunks of play being lost due to heavy rain than a particularly flat pitch.
Here’s a list of sides 1st innings scores at Pallekele in Tests since opening, along with the winner/result of each Test in bold text –
2015 – 1st inns – 278 (SL), 2nd inns – 215 (PAK) – PAK
2012 – 1st inns – 226 (PAK), 2nd inns – 337 (SL) – DRAW
2011 – 1st inns – 174 (SL), 2nd inns – 411/7d (AUS) – DRAW
2010 – 1st inns – 303/8 (WI), 2nd inns – No further play due to rain- DRAW
Batting in the 1st innings of the match in this period – Average 245
Batting in the 2nd innings of the match in this period – Average 321
NOTE – (we’ve ignored 3rd and 4th match innings for the purposes of this column which has been written for each sides 1st innings of the Test)
Form Guide & First Inns Runs
Here are Sri Lanka‘s last ten 1st innings scores in Tests, plus result in brackets –
288 (D) 101 (L) 91 (L) 133 (L) 294 (L) 200 (W) 484 (W) 201 (L) 306 (L) 183 (W) – Average 228
Here are Australia‘s last ten 1st innings scores in Tests, plus result in brackets. The 176/2 was a heavily rain-affected draw, so we won’t include that figure in the average –
505 (W) 562 (W) 176/2 (D) 551/3d (W) 583/4d (W) 224 (W) 559/9d (D) 556/4d (W) 481 (W) 60 (L) – Average 453
Angelo Matthews leads a Sri Lanka squad of 15 that contains four uncapped players. Three of these are seamers – hardly surprising given that by the end of England tour Sri Lanka had lost five quicks to injury or suspension – one newbie is 18 year-old Asitha Fernando whose played just 2 First Class matches. He might start alongside Nuwan Pradeep, who took 10 wickets in the 3 Tests in England, and Suranga Lakmal. The later continues to struggle in this form having taken just 59 wickets in 28 Tests. Vice captain Dinish Chandimal was the one player to make a century in the England Tests whilst skipper Mathews is the star with the willow, averaging 48.7 in his 59 matches. Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva both showed glimpses in those 3 Tests scoring 129 and 193 runs respectively. Slow left arm spin from experienced Rangana Herath is always a threat at home where he’s taken 203 of his career 304 wickets.
David Warner should be fit to open the batting for Australia despite recent finger and neck issues whilst opening partner Joe Burns averages 49 in his 10 Tests. Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges both average over 100 since the conclusion of last year’s Ashes whilst skipper Steve Smith should go well on these type of wickets and should add to his 14 hundreds in 41 Tests matches. Mitchell Marsh should play as the all-rounder whist O’Keefe (below) and Nathan Lyon will be the two spin options. Lyon has taken 33 wickets in his last 8 Tests and is an off spinner Sri Lanka shouldn’t underestimate. In such harsh conditions we can expect short, quick bursts from fit-again Mitchell Starc – the Aussie left arm fast man has 91 Test wickets – whilst fellow seamer Josh Hazlewood is also likely to be fit.
Ones To Watch
21 year-old Kusal Mendis looked the part in the UK, averaging 31.2 in what was a very low scoring series for the visitors. This will be his seventh Test but just his second in Sri Lanka. Just needing that one big score, Mendis will surely score many runs over the years for the Lankan’s.
Steve O’Keefe came into this series as Australia‘s second spinner behind the reliable, experienced Nathan Lyon. An incredible warm-up game which saw his slow-left arm spinners take 5-43 & 5-21 alongside an innings of 78* has surely ensured he will earn his third test cap.
Pallekele appears to be a ground that gets easier to bat on as the match progresses (low first innings scores, plus Pakistan chased 382-3 to win last year)
If Sri Lanka bat first, I recommend taking any UNDER RUNS around the 275-278 mark
If Australia bat first, I recommend taking any OVER RUNS around the 375-378 mark
Top Batsman Market
Kusal Mendis is the man for me and can be backed at 5.0 to top score in for Sri Lanka in their first innings.
Joe Burns has been in fine form in Tests recently and his price of 5.50 looks tasty to top score for Australia first time around.
Prices correct at time of writing.
Eastbridge now fully licensed in the UK!