Setting the tone for a tough tour
August 6, Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Start time 19:00 (13:30 GMT, 23:30 EST)
Australia commence their tour of Sri Lanka under a captain, Cameron White, who will be flying home once the Twenty20 matches have concluded. Sri Lanka, by contrast will be led in all three formats by Tillakaratne Dilshan, leading the team at home for the first time after taking over the reins for the England tour earlier this year.
Until a narrow victory over England in the second of two T20 matches following the Ashes, Australia's form in the shortest format had been poor, losing comfortably to the Sri Lankans in Perth last October and suffering a 2-0 series reverse against Pakistan in England during the 2010 northern summer. Michael Clarke's retirement from international T20 matches handed the captaincy to White, and he will now be hoping to get the tourists off to a strong start in Kandy.
The Sri Lankans have done rather better of late, defeating England in England, but that was their first T20 international since the aforementioned defeat of Australia at the WACA. Lasith Malinga's unavailability is a significant loss for the hosts, particularly as the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium and its new pitches have the potential for greater pace than most other surfaces on the island.
Both sides will want to set the tone for the tour with a first-up victory, as much to build confidence in their transitional teams as to get their opponents worried.
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In the spotlight
Angelo Mathews missed the Test series against Engalnd due to injury but eased his way back into some form during the subsequent limited overs matches to demonstrate why he was entrusted with the vice-captaincy before his 24th birthday. Explosive with the bat and intelligent with the ball, he played a key role in lifting the Sri Lankans to a memorable ODI victory over Australia at the MCG last year and will want to repeat the dose on home soil.
Steve O'Keefe, like his captain White, is only in Sri Lanka for the T20 matches, and is intent on showing that he should have been allowed to stay on. Peculiarly, his first-class bowling record is far better than any of his spin bowling rivals in Australia, but thus far the national selectors have declined to employ him further. O'Keefe has made no secret of his desire to push for bigger honours, and he can make a start by performing capably here to back-up the 3-29 he took on his T20 debut for Australia against Pakistan in 2010.
Sri Lanka's squad includes no fewer than six capable bowlers of spin, while the pace attack looks thin without Malinga, meaning Mathews or Nuwan Kulasekara can be expected to operate with the new ball. Aaron Finch is expected to be available having recovered from a rolled ankle suffered in training, and James Pattinson could be in line for a T20 debut.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Mahela Jayawardene, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Suraj Randiv, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Brad Haddin (wk), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Shaun Marsh, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Steve O'Keefe, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Brett Lee, 11 James Pattinson
Pitch and conditions
The Australians have been delighted by a hint of pace in the Kandy practice wickets and are hopeful for more of the same from the match strip. The Sri Lankans have trained in the evening to prepare for any moisture that may be present for a 7pm start.
Stats and trivia
- This is Australia's first T20 international in Sri Lanka
- It is also the first such fixture at the Pallekelle International Stadium
- Sri Lanka's captain Dilshan is the oldest man on either side at 34, shading the Australian fast bowler Brett Lee by a little more than a month
- Dilshan will be looking for a greater share of his team's runs, having made a meagre 23 in the five ODIs against England
"Australian usually play very hard. They may be a bit inexperienced. But they are tough opponents."
Tillakaratne Dilshan is not underestimating the Australians
"Definitely I think the way a series should be run, or a tour should be run, is that you start with your Twenty20s, then your one-dayers and then your Test matches."
Brett Lee says the tourists are happy with their Sri Lanka program
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo