Wednesday’s T20 series finale between Australia and Sri Lanka was always in the spotlight. When the futures cricket schedule was shunned in favour of the big three proposition (a model that is now defunct) criticisms over the amount of cricket the big three (India, England, Australia) would play were rife.
To put the criticism in context, Australia plays a test in India on the day after the third T20 game.
The criticism is valid, but because of the performance from Sri Lanka in winning the opening two games, the focus on Adelaide is entirely different. Now, it’s Australia desperate to avoid an embarrassing whitewash on home soil.
Sri Lanka won the series opener at the MCG, taking four off the final ball of the game to win a low scorer.
In Geelong for game two, Australia mustered 173 (about 10-15 runs short of where they should’ve been) which was again hauled down from the final ball of the innings. The incredible run chase was completed by the uber-impressive Asela Gunaratne who made 84 not out from 46 balls in a one-man show. The cheeky (in batsmanship not in personality) never panicked as his team mates lost their heads and remarkably, took 48 from the final three overs to see his side home by two wickets.
With the win, Sri Lanka secure their third successive T20 series win in Australia.
Aaron Finch (capt), Michael Klinger, Travis Head, Ben Dunk, Moises Henriques, Ashton Turner, Tim Paine (wk), James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Jhye Richardson, Billy Stanlake.
Ben Dunk and Jhye Richardson got their chance in Geelong instead of Adam Zampa and Billy Stanlake so there’s a good chance rotation plays a part in the selection thinking here too. Dunk helped Australia chase the momentum of the innings and probably did enough to retain his place.
Sri Lanka (from):
Upal Tharanga (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunarathna, Dilshan Munaweera, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardena, Sachith Pathirana, Chamara Kapugedara, Seekuge Prassanna, Nuan Kulaskera, Isuru Udana, Dasun Chanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Vikum Sanjaya.Captain
With a series win in the bag, it might be tempting for the selectors to make some changes, but I don’t think they’ll win. The prospect of a series whitewash should outweigh any desire to rest players in the final game of a tour.
Moses Henriques may have bowled the over that allowed Sri Lanka to claw back into the game – the 18th of the innings; it went for 22. However, he also ensured Australia had a decent total to defend with an exceptionally well made half century. Henriques, with the added responsibility of batting four, was impressive in his 56 not out from 37 balls, finally showing promise in national colours after some horror outings in the past. Look for him to again be the mainstay of the batting effort, but perhaps not bowling crunch over at the death.
It’s hard not to preview anyone other than the amazing little right-hander that has set the series alight. Gunarathna has made (and averaged) 136 runs in the two games at a strike rate of 163. Aaron Finch described him as being incredibly difficult to bowl to, and that’s exactly how it has transpired in both games of the series. Gunarathna will now chase Virat Kohli’s record of 199 runs in a three-match T20 series – he needs 64 to beat Kohli’s current best aggregate.
Australia – $1.52
Sri Lanka – $2.53
*Odds from Bet365.
Each match in the series has seen Sri Lanka’s odds shorten ahead of the game. From $4.10 to win the first game, $2.87 to win Sunday’s second game, to the current $2.53 it has been a sensational series win against all predictions. We were wrong too, picking Australia in both the opening two games. We’re not making that mistake again. Sri Lanka to sweep it with a 3 wicket or 6 run win.
We’re all in on Gunarathna to top score. He’s paying $6 to top score for the third straight game.
Henriques who has looked the most accomplished of the Australian side is paying the same. At $6 that’s attractive for a number four batsman who should spend lots of time in the middle. Ben Dunk is your other nicely priced option at $5.