BRISBANE: Sri Lanka may have their best chance to win a cricket Test in Australia when they face an unsettled Australian lineup in the day-night game in Brisbane from Thursday.
The teams have met only 13 times in Australia since Sri Lanka joined the ranks of Test nations in 1981 and the home team has won 11 of those matches, the other two having been drawn.
Sri Lanka last toured Australia six years ago, losing that series, but when the teams last met in Sri Lanka in 2016, Sri Lanka won the series 3-0.
Those results point to the fact that both teams struggle in the other’s conditions. But the first day-night Test between the teams may have a leveling effect. Sri Lanka won their s only previous day-night Test against the West Indies in Bridgetown last year.
The visitors may also count in their favour the current instability in the Australia team. Australia’s lineup has been in a state of flux in recent years, a condition made worse by the suspensions for ball-tampering of captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft.
The national selectors have struggled to assemble a consistent Test unit in recent seasons, elevating and discarding some players with dizzying rapidity.
Fast bowler Jhye Richardson and batsman Kurtis Patterson were named on Wednesday to make their Test debuts, bringing to 52 the number of debutants Australia has fielded in the last decade, more than twice the number of the previous 10 years.
Australia have used 63 players in Tests since 2009 and 21 in the last year alone as Smith, Warner and Bancroft’s suspensions have added to a period of upheaval. That has often forced the selectors to call-up players from Australia’s domestic first class competition much earlier than in the past.
Australian captain Tim Paine said on Wednesday that Sri Lanka should prepare themselves for a bouncer barrage as his much-vaunted pace attack hadn’t used the bouncer effectively in their recent series loss to India.
Paine hoped his bowlers will be better prepared against Sri Lanka.
“India batted really well,” he conceded. “Sub-continent players, when the wickets are good, like the ball being bowled at their stumps and they don’t miss too many when they’re in the form some of those guys were in.”
Sri Lanka have a more stable look, though they contain only three players who were involved in the previous series in Australia in 2012-13. Injuries to Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Pradeep have removed some experience.
Sri Lanka’s batting has a more tested look than Australia’s with Dimuth Karunaratne at the top of the order, to be followed by Kusal Mendis and captain Dinesh Chandimal.
Sri Lanka’s bowling resources should also not be under-estimated, led by the experienced Suranga Lakmal and including the greater pace of Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, and Dushmantha Chameera. Australia’s pace attack has been hit with the withdrawal of Josh Hazlewood, who has a back injury.
In trying to beat Australia, Sri Lanka might adopt the blueprint of the India team which has just completed their first Test series win in Australia.
Speaking to reporters at the Gabba, Chandimal was cautious when asked about Sri Lanka’s chances.
“It’s definitely a challenge for us, and if you can take this challenge — and as a batsman or as a bowler you give it your best shot and give 200 percent to the team — we can do a miracle here,” he said. “That’s what we want to do as a team, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
AUSTRALIA: Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Kurtis Patterson, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Lyon.
SRI LANKA (from): Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Kusal Mendis, Roshen Silva, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha.
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Richard Illingworth (England).
TV umpire: Michael Gough (England).
Match referee: Javagal Srinath (India).
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019