T20I series preview: Sri Lanka vs Australia


As a prelude to the ODI and Test series, Sri Lanka and Australia slug it out in two T20Is, with the visitors looking to correct a poor record in the format.

<b>Overview</b><BR>Twenty20 cricket is not a format that Australia have thrived in since making their debut in 2005. 22 wins from 41 encounters represents a poor return for one of the world's best sides.

Heading to Sri Lanka with a squad mixed with youth and experience, the men from Down Under will be looking for an upturn in results. Nobody more so than skipper Cameron White.

Dropped from the 50-over squad for the tour, White's sole opportunity to shine will come in the two Twenty20 clashes.

White is not the only Australian looking to rescue his reputation, with Steven Smith dealt a stiff blow having been axed from the Test team. The all-rounder's role at all levels has come under the spotlight, gaining momentum, with a few sparkling performances in the T20 clashes key to how the remainder of Smith's season pans out.

With only three specialist fast bowlers picked, expect youngster James Pattinson to make his international debut.

Across the park, Sri Lanka's fast bowling arsenal looks rather light with the loss of Lasith Malinga to injury a big blow to the hosts.

It's at the top of the order that the home side look the most dangerous, with a top three of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara enough to make even the most lethal of attacks shiver.

But this is also where the team's weakness lies. As was evident in the recent one-day series against England, the team struggle to post competitive totals when one of the three experienced campaigners fail to shine.

The emergence of Dinesh Chandimal and a fully fit Angelo Mathews will help off-set this problem but it is still a concern.

<b>Key Men</b><BR><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Having seen his World Cup campaign brought to an early end by injury, <b>Angelo Mathews</b> began to find some solid form at the tail end of Sri Lanka's tour to England. Handed extra responsibility as Tillakaratne Dilshan's deputy, Mathews' performance in all facets of the game is key for the hosts.

<i>Australia:</i> <b>Steve O'Keefe</b> has spoken of his hope to use the Twenty20s as a platform to launch his career in the longer forms of the game and with the shambolic state of spin selection in Australia there is no reason why he can't.

<b>Last Four Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>October 2010: Sri Lanka won by seven wickets in Perth<br>May 2010: Australia won by 81 runs in Bridgetown<br>June 2009: Sri Lanka won by six wickets in Nottingham<br>September 2007: Australia won by 10 wickets in Cape Town

<b>Prediction</b><BR>The pitch at the Pallekele International Stadium – the venue for both matches – is expected to have a bit of pace in it, which will aid the visitors more than there hosts. However, with both teams thoroughly unpredictable in the format don't be surprised to see the series squared at one win a piece.

<a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Online betting</B></a> firm Sky Bet, has Sri Lanka at 10/11 odds in the <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>betting</B></a> to win the first T20I against the Aussies.

<b>Probable Teams</b><BR><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (wicketkeeper), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suraj Randiv, Suranga Lakmal.

<i>Australia:</b> David Warner, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Cameron White (captain), Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Steven Smith, Steve O'Keefe, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, James Pattinson.