Sri Lanka and Australia have experienced extremely contrasting fortunes in the Test series so far. While the hosts have been completely dominant, Australia have just not found a way to deal with the conditions. If there is one thing that is common, it is the fact that both teams find themselves in a rather unfamiliar position. Sri Lanka have managed only three 3-0 whitewashes in their history, against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and a weak West Indies. Australia on the other hand have been brown-washed only four times in their entire Test history, the last was in India in 2012-13.
The only way Australia can survive as of now, it seems, is if rain plays a major role in SSC, Colombo. The other alternative is of course if their batting falls into place, which looks rather difficult as of now. But, if skipper Steven Smith can play a big role, Australia can still put up a fight. Although Smith hasn’t scored a lot of runs, among the Aussies he has still looked the best. The visitors will be looking up to their captain to lead from the front. David Warner got a couple of 40s as he attacked at Galle, but he must go on to bigger things.
The series has been a massive challenge for Australia’s young batsmen. The likes of Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh have learnt that playing on the sub-continent needs a different kind of talent. Australia will only hope that they can be better for experience. With the middle order struggling, the Aussies are likely to make some changes in the batting department. Shaun Marsh is all set to come in. In case, Adam Voges, who is struggling with a hamstring, is not fit, he is likely to be replaced. But, if Voges passes fit, Khawaja or Burns could be among the ones sitting out.
For Sri Lanka, the story has been about two men – their spinners Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath although Kusal Mendis’ series-turning knock cannot not be ignored by any stretch of the imagination. Dilruwan picked up 10 wickets at Galle, to go with his half-century, in the process becoming the first Sri Lankan to achieve the feat in a Test, and also became the fastest Sri Lankan bowler to reach 50 Test wickets. So good was Dilruwan’s performance, Herath’s hat-trick in the same match was relegated to the background. And, Lakshan Sandakan, who had matched Herath in Pallekele was hardly needed.
The one big problem for Sri Lanka has been the top order. Dimuth Karunaratne has not even reached double figures in the series so far. His scores read 5,0,0,7. It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka persist with Karunaratne or give a chance to a newcomer like Roshen Silva. In the bowling while the three spinners will be crucial again, there is every chance that the fit Suranga Lakmal makes a comeback in place of Vishwa Fernando, who was hardly used during his Test debut. The Lankans will undoubtedly do into the third Test at Colombo as favourites yet again.
--By A Cricket Analyst