Sun, Jul 24, 10:53am by Staff Writer
The world’s number one team arrived in Sri Lanka more than a fortnight before the first test with the aim of turning around their deplorable recent record on the continent. It’s their first test series against the tiny island nation in 5 years.
Despite their poor run, which includes only one test series win in the past 10 years, the Aussies head into the contest as heavy favourites at $1.85 with the draw at $2.55 and the home side at $6.50.
There are only three players who were part of the squad that toured 5 years ago, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh. They won that series 1-0, which is the only time the Aussies have come away from Asian soil with a series victory in the past 10 years. Further illustrating just how tough it has been for the Aussies in the region, besides the aforementioned series victory against Sri Lanka last time they toured, they’ve lost 10 of their past 14 tests on the continent with four draws.
On the selection front, it looks like the Aussies will field two spinners with Steven O’Keefe dominating the warm-up match, snaring 10-64 and making 78 not out. He and off-spinner Nathan Lyon will have a lot of work to do on spinner friendly decks throughout the series.
The hosts are 11 months into a rebuilding phase after saying goodbye to two of their favourite sons, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. In that time they’ve played 8 tests for two wins, five losses and a draw. Their batting now leans almost entirely on the skipper Angelo Matthews and wicket-keeper batsmen Chandimal who averages an extremely handy 44. The key on the bowling front will once again rely heavily on their veteran spinner, Rangana Herath.
I’m backing the Aussies to get the job done here against the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. They look confident and well balanced following a brilliant series in foreign conditions in the Caribbean. Since the overhaul of the squad following the Ashes defeat last August they’ve not lost a series.
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