Home > Cricket News, The Final Word > The Summer of Cricket – Part One Sri Lanka

The Summer of Cricket – Part One Sri Lanka

So we have the first cricket of the season (I know it’s not summer, but we’ll start here anyway) following the Argus Review, which has shaken up the whole sport, and hopefully made some immediate changes for the better. I’ve decided to do previews of the season, starting with the Sri Lanka tour, then the South African tour, the home tests, and finally the Big Bash. We start in Sri Lanka, and the First Test already has some interesting points coming from it.

So for all the cricket fans out there, the wait is finally over. We have had the Twenty20s and the ODIs, with the Sri Lankans taking the first series 2-0, before the Aussies hit back to win the ODIs 3-2. Players have come and gone (unfortunately Dougie Bollinger is one of the latter, as is Steve O’Keefe), and the first Test squad under Michael Clarke is now settled. I’ll be taking you through each position in the team, the likely starters (including my team and what is the likely team), and an overview of the Sri Lankans, as well as a quick look at the issues coming up. So let’s get into it!

Australia – The openers

The biggest talking point coming out of the contract list a few months ago was the dumping on Simon Katich from the list. Ironically, the man that is said to be the big reason behind Katich’s dumping, Andrew Hildich, has been punted himself following the Argus Review but it means nothing as they attempt to build another solid partnership for the Ashes in England in 2013. Shane Watson is a certainty here, and for good reason. His form in the ODIs was impressive, dominating the Sri Lankan attacks constantly to be Australia’s third highest run scorer for the series. His partner will be Phil Hughes, the immensely talented opener who has been in very good form of late, with hundred after hundred in Zimbabwe for Australia A, and an impressive half century in the tour match. He’ll be out to prove some doubters wrong after a disappointing show in the last two Ashes Tests, and I’m backing him to do it. There was some talk of Shaun Marsh getting a start in the top order, but after the tour match Hughes’ place is confirmed and Marsh is in doubt.

Top/Middle Order

The top order is extremely settled, with Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both batting with sense and class in the ODIs, hopefully meaning this will translate to the Test arena. Ponting has now passed on the captaincy to Clarke, and with that pressure off his shoulders, he may revive a dwindling career in Tendulkar-esque fashion. If that is the case, Australia are in for some good times! Clarke has also been batting very well, topped off by a century in the tour match. Mike Hussey has had little opportunity in the ODIs, and batted at first drop in the tour match, scoring 28. Despite this, his place is more than secure, and he will be someone to be relied upon if the higher batsman suffer the wobbles like we did over the last summer. The big question comes over number six, and the fight between Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh. Marsh did well in the limited overs games at the top of the order, including a 70 in the fourth ODI, but failed in the tour match at number six, getting just 12. Khawaja hasn’t been in spectacular form with Australia A or County Cricket, but he did score a chance-less hundred in the tour match, and should get the spot. If not, it was a waste selecting him in Sydney, but hopefully the Argus Review has brought some logic to the new selection panel, and sense prevails. In saying that, I like Marsh as a batsman, but I see Khawaja as a much better prospect, particularly at number three post-Ponting. Finally, Brad Haddin will be the keeper, and is expected to bat at seven.

Bowling attack

This is the biggest mystery in the Aussie line-up, with Clarke saying that the final bowling attack won’t be known until they’ve seen the pitch on the first morning. As much as I like two spinners in a team, we would be playing a spinner (Lyon) and a slow bowler (Beer), with one Test between them. Neither did anything of note in the tour match or in Zimbabwe for Australia A, but one will be picked. It is most likely to be Beer given his ‘experience’. Mitchell Johnson will be there as our strike weapon, and he looked fairly good in the ODIs, while in some good news, Ryan Harris is back fit again, and from all reports bowling the house down. His loss in the Melbourne Test made a big difference, and he will be important for the team in Sri Lanka. Finally Trent Copeland has jumped ahead of Peter Siddle and James Patinson (who has only figured in one ODI game so far on tour) and his spell in the first innings of the tour match has pretty much confirmed what any knowledgeable NSW supporter has known for a long time – he’s got it. Hopefully he gets a run, and if so he would be able to bowl into the wind for 20+ overs at a time, and take wickets. What more could you want?!?!? If he does play, it would also be a testament to the tried and tested pathway through grade cricket and into the state system. Copeland was picked from nowhere not too long ago after impressing in first grade, and was the fastest player in 100 years to 50 first class wickets for NSW. Good times could be ahead.

Likely team

1. Shane Watson

2. Phil Hughes

3. Ricky Ponting

4. Michael Clarke (c)

5. Michael Hussey

6. Usman Khawaja

7. Brad Haddin (wk)

8. Mitchell Johnson

9. Ryan Harris

10. Trent Copeland/Nathan Lyon

11. Michael Beer

Useless Trivia (thanks to CricInfo.com)

  • Last time Ricky Ponting played a Test series not as captain – against India in 2003-04 – he made two double-centuries and averaged 100.85
  • Ponting is the only member of Australia’s squad to have played a Test in Sri Lanka, while five of Sri Lanka’s players remain from the most recent tour in 2004
  • Kumar Sangakkara needs 113 runs to move into 15th place on the list of all-time leading Test run scorers. As it stands, he’s the only man in the top 20 to have played less than 100 Tests

Sri Lanka (thanks to CricInfo.com)

Sri Lanka’s middle order was a major concern in the one-day series, but Australia will find it much tougher to get through a Test line-up featuring Thilan Samaraweera. Just because a bowling team gets rid of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t mean the hard work is done. The obdurate Samaraweera will add some starch to Sri Lanka’s batting order, although despite his reputation and experience, he hasn’t brought out his best against Australia in the past. He’s played five Tests against them but averages only 31.22 with a top score of 70. But in Sri Lankan conditions, where he averages 76.12 over the past four years, the Australians will underestimate him at their peril.

Sri Lanka cut Seekuge Prasanna, Shaminda Eranga and Dhammika Prasad from the original 16-man squad on match eve. Lahiru Thirimanne’s century in the tour match against the Australians has given him some chance of slipping ahead of Tharanga Paranavitana, while the other batting changes from the one-day team are the additions of Samaraweera and the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene to the middle order. The big question is how many spinners to play. Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath should have the front-running. But do they play an extra spinner and rely on Angelo Mathews as the second seamer? One man who won’t be in the Sri Lankan XI is Lasith Malinga, who has ruled out a return to Test cricket despite the numerous entreaties he has received from the board and its selectors. Malinga’s knees have not improved in their condition since he announced his retirement from Tests in mid-year, and he would only consider a return in the highly unlikely event of visible improvement.

Sri Lanka (possible):

1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt)

2 Tharanga Paranavitana / Lahiru Thirimanne

3 Kumar Sangakkara

4 Mahela Jayawardene

5 Thilan Samaraweera

6 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk)

7 Angelo Mathews

8 Suranga Lakmal

9 Rangana Herath

10 Ajantha Mendis

11 Chanaka Welegedara

The Issues

  • How will Ricky Ponting respond in Test cricket post-captaincy? This is a big part of the Australian team. If he succeeds, it could be a massive plus for Australia into he future, and in the twilight of his career Australia could transition with Ponting’s experience and big contributions which have unfortunately been lacking of recent times. If it fails, I can’t see him lasting too long, and if Khawaja is in the side at six for some time, then at least we will have a ready-made replacement.
  • Who are our spinners? As I mentioned before it seems we’ve picked a spinner in Lyon (I think he is a good prospect but not ready for Test cricket by any means yet) and a slow bowler in Beer (in my opinion struggles to be up to first class standard let alone Test standard, as the Sydney Test showed. Hopefully I’m proved extremely wrong). I wouldn’t have picked either in the squad, but one will have to play, possibly both, and it looks like it will be Beer.
  • How different will the Clarke era be? As much as I don’t exactly like him as the future Australian test captain for his personality or ego, he is a wonderful tactical captain, and hopefully he employs similar tactics to that which he used in limited overs games as captain. If so, we will be an attacking side, returning to the Steve Waugh days, where we were feared as a nation, and could win a Test from anywhere.
So that’s it for the Sri Lanka preview. The South African one will be coming up closer to the tour, and the others will follow that one pretty much straight away. Let us know your thoughts on the series and the team by leaving a comment below.
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  1. August 31, 2011 at 4:55 am

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