Rex Clementine in Brisbane for Island,
The national cricket team has gone through some tough times in the last ten weeks and despite all the hard times, they head into the opening Test against Australia here at the Gabba knowing too well that they could make history here. Sri Lanka have never won a Test match in Australia and with the opposition in shambles, following the ball tampering fiasco, this is seen as the perfect opportunity to record the elusive win.
Captains Dinesh Chandimal (R) and Tim Paine pose with the Warne-Murali Test trophy at The Gabba in Brisbane on January 23, 2019, ahead of the first day-night Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka on January 24. ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP
All is not well within Australian cricket after captain Steve Smith and deputy David Warner received lengthy suspensions along with opening batsman Cameron Bancroft for their role during their ball tampering incident in South Africa. The Australian public are asking for fair play and as a result some sweeping changes were made to the sport here. Apart from the trio of Smith, Warner and Bancroft, Head Coach Darren Lehman stepped down followed by Cricket Australia’s highly successful CEO James Sutherland.
The absence of the two senior players was felt as India completed their first ever series win over the Aussies here earlier in the summer. There is hope that Sri Lanka could follow suit and take advantage of the situation.
Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc looked a pale shadow of his former self during the Indian series. Starc was still effective with the new ball but with the older ball, he wasn’t the force he once used to be. With all the focus on whether the players are up to some mischief with the ball, the Aussies seem to be determined not to be involved in any foul play fearing an avalanche of criticism and public outcry.
Top order batsman Kurtis Patterson, who posted twin unbeaten hundreds in the warm-up game against the tourists in Tasmania earlier this week will make his debut alongside fast bowler Jhye Richardson.
For Sri Lanka Lahiru Thirimanne is set to make a comeback after being axed from the side in 2017. Sri Lanka were fancying playing four seamers and leaving out Dilruwan Perera but later settled down to a more rational combination drafting Perera into the playing eleven along with three seamers. The off-spinner was the second highest wicket taker in 2018 behind Kagiso Rabada. While Perera claimed 50 wickets last year, Rabada finished with 52.
Suranga Lakmal will share the new ball with Dushmantha Chameera with Lahiru Kumara expected to come in as first change. Kasun Rajitha will miss out.
Australia have an excellent record at the Gabba as well having lost just eight of the 60 games they have played here. Asian nations have featured in 13 Tests at this ground and are yet to win one.
Now with WACA gone, Gabba remains the fastest wicket in Australia and the curator here has left grass as well to make it tougher for the tourists. Sri Lanka will bank heavily on their opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who was recently named in the World XI by the ICC. Karunaratne was the only Sri Lankan chosen.
Australia are ranked fifth in official ICC Rankings while Sri Lanka are at six.
Australia (From): Tim Paine(Captain and wicketkeeper), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jhye Richardson, Kurtis Patterson
Sri Lanka Squad: Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (Wicketkeeper), Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera.
Umpires: Richard Illingworth (Eng) and Marais Erasmus (RSA
Third Umpire: Michael Gough (Eng)
Match Referee: Javagal Srinath (Ind)
The Island’s coverage of Sri Lanka’s cricket tour of Australia is sponsored by FairFirst.