Second Test preview: Sri Lanka v Australia


Australia's new-found confidence was clear in the fact that they named their XI two days prior to the Test, leaving Tristan Holme to fancy the tourists in Pallekele.

If there was one act which fully declared Australia's new-found confidence it was Michael Clarke confirming their XI two days prior to the start of the second Test in Pallekele. They did a similar thing the day before the first Test, when Cricket Australia tweeted their XI after the selection meeting.

Naming a team days in advance is something more commonly associated with rugby union, but whatever CA's reason for breaking away from the tradition of waiting until the toss it is undoubtedly a bold statement. 'This is our team,' it says. 'Beat us if you can.'

The challenge has certainly been thrown down for Sri Lanka, who have a proud home record but were beaten in conditions which were meant to give them a healthy advantage. Suddenly it is they who need to rebuild after a disappointing tour of England and a home defeat followed on from the news that Sri Lanka Cricket is in huge debt and have sacked their Board.

A loss in the Hill Country could spell a full-blown crisis, particularly as it would leave them without a Test series win in five attempts.

If a breath of fresh air is what they need then it could be supplied by Shaminda Eranga, who looks likely to make his debut as Chanaka Welegedera battles a knee problem. Welegedera will undergo a fitness test on Thursday morning, but while his experience is handy in an otherwise fledgling bowling attack, the Australians apparently rate Eranga after he impressed in his first three one-day internationals last month.

Another likely change is the inclusion of Ajantha Mendis in the place of Suraj Randiv, who had an unusually ineffective Test in extremely helpful conditions in Galle. Australia were surprised not to see Mendis in the Galle line-up. Although they appeared increasingly at ease against him during the one-day series, the task of picking him over after over is a challenge they are yet to endure.

Either way, the changes to Sri Lanka's bowling attack reflect their continuing struggle to find reliable replacements for Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga. Rangana Herath has stepped up, and has taken 56 wickets in 14 Tests since the start of the 2009 home season, but he often lacks the support of a threatening second spinner.

Of course Australia's only team news is a debut for Shaun Marsh with Ricky Ponting having flown home for the birth of his second child. Needless to say Sri Lanka will be keen to exploit that, with Marsh occupying the key position of number three in the Australian order.

Otherwise it's 'same again' for Clarke's side, who will fancy their chances on a more conventional surface.

<b>Key Men</b><br><i>Sri Lanka:</i> It was runs that Sri Lanka lacked in Galle, with their seemingly rock-solid middle order failing to stop the rot in the first innings. No-one is as important to the batting line-up as <b>Kumar Sangakkara</b>, particularly with Tillakaratne Dilshan's maverick approach to opening, so the hosts desperately need him to return to his reliable self.

<i>Australia:</i> With two rookies in the top three now, <b>Shane Watson</b> can almost claim 'veteran' status. As someone who likes the ball coming onto the bat the harder Pallekele pitch should be to his liking, and Australia will need stability from him to aid Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh at the top of the order.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>September 2011, First Test: Australia won by 125 runs in Galle<BR>November 2007, Second Test: Australia won by 96 runs in Hobart<br>November 2007, First Test: Australia won by an innings and 40 runs in Brisbane<br>July 2004, Second Test: Match drawn in Cairns<br>July 2004, First Test: Australia won by 149 runs in Darwin

<b>Prediction</b><br>This is a tricky one to call. It will surely go into the fifth day, but with both batting units looking far from bullet-proof a draw seems unlikely. It is to the bowlers that we must therefore look, in which case you have to fancy <b>Australia</b> to pip it.

Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> has the draw as favourite in the betting for the first Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Shaminda Eranga.

<i>Australia:</i> Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Shaun Marsh, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Usman Khawaja, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon.

<b>Dates:</b> 8 – 12 September<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:00 – 12:00 (04:30 – 06:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40- 14:40 (07:10- 09:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:00 – 17:00 (09:30 – 11:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Tony Hill and Richard Kettleborough<br><B>Third umpire:</B> Aleem Dar<BR><b>Match referee:</b> Chris Broad

<b>Tristan Holme</b>