Melbourne’s traditional Boxing Day test sees Australia welcome Sri Lanka with the home side looking to clinch this three match series here in the 2nd Test (11.30pm GMT, Tuesday).
After a comfortable win in Hobart, Michael Clarke’s side are looking strong, although the battling Sri Lankans took the game to the final session of the fifth day and some minor improvements would make Mahela Jaywardene’s men more competitive here.
If Australia have any weaknesses right now, they certainly aren’t in the batting department where skipper Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey have dominated all summer. Both men made runs in their side’s first innings total of 450-5 in Hobart and even if they fail, the likes of David Warner, Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes all look to be in good form.
An added problem for Sri Lanka is the lack of potency in their bowling attack. World class players such as Murali and Malinga have long since retired and their main striker bowler – mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis – remains injured. Rangana Herath is a danger with his left arm spin and while he took five second innings wickets in Hobart, there is little support from the rest of the attack.
All of these facts would suggest that a Sri Lankan win can be ruled out but can the tourists snatch a draw and keep this series alive as it moves on to Sydney?
A drawn match is certainly within Sri Lanka’s reach but much will depend, as it always does, on the big three of Jayawardene, Dilshan and Sangakkara. Dilshan did make an attractive 147 in Hobart but his experienced teammates were more subdued by their own standards. There was some support elsewhere as Angelo Mathews made 75 in his team’s first knock and if the batters can rediscover their best form then a draw looks exceptional value at 3/1.
However, Australia have a huge advantage over their visitors when it comes to the respective bowling line-ups. Peter Siddle has been described as the heart and soul of this side but he backs up his unbreakable will to win with some impressive talent. Siddle took nine wickets in the first test and was a worthy man of the match but unlike Sri Lanka, this isn’t a one man bowling attack.
Siddle received excellent support from Mitchell Starc, who took five wickets in Sri Lanka’s second innings while spinner Nathan Lyon also seems to be growing into test cricket as he takes important wickets at the top of the order.
Australia’s bowlers really hold the key to this game and the match will be won and lost when Sri Lanka walk to the crease in their first innings. Having adapted to Australian conditions however, I would expect Jayawardene’s men to make bigger totals this time around and while they seem incapable of taking twenty Australian wickets, this should be enough to secure a high scoring draw.
- This Preview’s Betting Tip: Bet on the draw at 3/1 with Stan James.