AUS vs. SL - First T20
MATCH UP STATS
AUS vs. SL - First T20
Last Twenty20 resultAustralia: Lost to India by six wickets (March 27, 2016)Sri Lanka: Defeated South Africa by five wickets (January 25, 2017)
Top batsman picksAustralia: Michael Klinger ($5 at Sportsbet)Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga ($5 at Sportsbet)
Top bowler picksAustralia: Pat Cummins ($4.35 at William Hill)Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga ($4 at Sportsbet)
All of those players featured at the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 nearly a year ago – the last time Australia played 20-over cricket on the international stage.
Also missing are Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson and Matthew Wade, each of whom might have been considered for Sri Lanka’s visit were they not preoccupied with the upcoming Test series in India.
The only survivors from Australia’s doomed World T20 campaign are deputy skipper Aaron Finch, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa.
With so many players already unavailable, the last thing the Aussies needed was another man down.
Yet Cricket Australia announced last week that Chris Lynn had withdrawn from the squad after aggravating an existing neck injury in training.
“Chris resumed some light training as part of his rehabilitation, but was still unable to function at the level he needs to play international cricket due to his existing neck injury,” said Kevin Sims, the team physiotherapist.
“He will be seeing a specialist later this week and from there we will have a better understanding of the ongoing management, along with the return to play time frames.”
Stepping in to fill the void is Ben Dunk, who top scored in the 2016-17 Big Bash League following a rejuvenating switch from Hobart to Adelaide.
The hard-hitting lefty has not played for Australia since 2014, when he featured in a treble of Twenty20 games against South Africa.
“Ben was the highest run-scorer for the Big Bash in the season just gone, amassing a total of 364 runs in just 222 balls faced,” said Trevor Hohns, the interim head of selectors.
“He has had consistent performances in the BBL, IPL and CPL and also brings international experience to the squad.”
Also recalled are Tim Paine and Andrew Tye, while old stager Michael Klinger and young gun Jhye Richardson are poised for international debuts.
Sri Lanka are not without personnel problems of their own.
Angelo Mathews pulled out of the tour after tearing his hamstring in the midst of a match-winning knock in Johannesburg last month.
Upul Tharanga will lead the charge in his absence as the Sri Lankans look to build on their historic T20 series victory in South Africa.
The selectors have run out of patience with keeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal, who was left out of the touring party after failing to pass 50 once in three Tests, three ODIs and three T20s against the Proteas.
Sanath Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lanka captain, said last week that the talented 27-year-old needed a spell in grade cricket to find his game and his confidence.
“Chandimal should go back to club cricket,” insisted Jayasuriya, who is now the national team’s chief selector.
“He should work his game out. This is not the first time he has gone through a tough patch.
“He has to be mentally very strong. You can’t think of failure all the time.
“Have a chat to the computer analyst, find out what’s going wrong and come back stronger.
“These are tough times for him. You find media and social media going after you, and you have to keep these things aside and concentrate on your cricket.”
In better news for the visitors, Lasith Malinga will make his return after nearly a year out of competitive cricket due to injury and illness.
Also back in the squad is opening bat Dilshan Munaweera, who has not featured for Sri Lanka in any format since 2013.
Michael Klinger betting specials
Top Australia runscorer – +400 at Sportsbet
Man of the match – +600 at Bet365
One upside of this slapdash Australian squad is that a few in-form veterans are getting a chance to shine on the big stage.
Dunk and Paine were both excellent in BBL06, but it is Klinger who deserves his gig most of all.
The Western Australia and Perth Scorchers star has racked up runs season after season after season in every format, yet there has always been someone else at the head of the queue for national selection.
Only a handful of players have scored six or more domestic Twenty20 centuries, and ‘Maxy’ is one of them.
He steered the Scorchers to Big Bash glory with a match-winning 71 not out only a few weeks ago, so there are no questions about his form.
Australia vs. Sri Lanka T20 match tips
Match result – Australia (-333.33 at CrownBet.com.au)
Highest opening partnership – Australia (-138.89 at Sportsbet.com.au)
Century to be scored? – Yes (+1000 at Sportsbet.com.au)
Question: would either of these teams beat a full-strength Perth Scorchers outfit?
However you answer, it is tough to tip this one when Australia are fielding so many unknown (or forgotten) quantities at international level.
How will Klinger handle the transition? Will Dunk and Paine be too eager to stake claims to a regular spot? Who knows what Richardson and big Billy Stanlake will deliver?
One could ask similar questions of Sri Lanka.
How will they fare without the leadership of Mathews? Does Tharanga have the charisma or tactical nous for captaincy? Will Lasith Malinga take a little while to find his rhythm?
Although they won the Twenty20 leg of their South Africa tour, the Lankans were soundly thumped in every other instance.
That included five straight defeats in the One Day International series after Mathews went down.
If the pitches are fast and bouncy, as expected, Sri Lanka may well struggle against the pace of Pat Cummins and company.
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