Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st ODI, Pallekele August 9, 2011

Trial by spin for transitional Australia


Match facts

August 10, Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Start time 14:30 (9:00 GMT, 19:00 EST)

Big Picture

The 'building for the future' theme has been repeated several times in the lead-up to this series, but given how the Twenty20 internationals played out, Australia have more immediate concerns on their hands. Muttiah Muralitharan may not be around, but his slow-bowling understudies have shown they have enough ammunition to spin the visitors out of control. If Australia are to survive Sri Lanka they have to find a way past the tweakers, and the return of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey for the ODIs should be a source of great relief in their camp.

The trio's absence from the Twenty20s presented a worrying glimpse into the future of Australian batting. For a brief while during the second match, Ajantha Mendis was as unplayable as he was in his debut summer of 2008, before the world woke up to his assortment of tricks. Shane Watson top-edged a carrom ball, Shaun Marsh sleep-walked past a googly, while Brad Haddin forgot the significance of reaching out to the pitch of the ball. Even David Hussey, reputed to be a good player of spin, perished at the first sign of pressure. Sri Lanka were allowed to build that kind of pressure in a 20-over game. Australia should plan for much more in the 50-over format.

Australia's spin woes don't end with their batsmen though. With 40 ODI wickets between them, Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith and David Hussey won't give Sri Lanka sleepless nights, but their faster colleagues could make up for their inexperience. Brett Lee has been around long enough to carry this attack, while Doug Bollinger is an exciting addition to the side, given his IPL exploits in similar conditions. Add Mitchell Johnson's fire and John Hastings' variations to the mix, and you are looking at a fairly well-rounded seam arsenal. The hosts' ability to counter the fast bowlers could be decisive, with the series promising to evolve into a contest between Sri Lanka's spin and Australia's pace.

Form guide

(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLWW
Australia WWWLL

In the spotlight

Angelo Mathews has pulled off incredible stunts in the outfield twice within the span of three years, but there is so much more to his cricket than breath-taking boundary-line jugglery. He is, arguably, irreplaceable in the Sri Lanka side - his injury ahead of the World Cup final threw their plans into a mess, forcing three changes in an attempt to balance the side. Mathews continues to feel his way into top fitness, and may not have much to do with the ball in this series but will be critical in the middle order of a decidedly top-heavy batting line-up.

Until Ajantha Mendis' magic show began on Monday, Shane Watson put on a display of such visceral violence that it wouldn't have been out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie. He clouted five sixes in a nine-ball passage leading up to his dismissal, each bigger than the previous one and threatening the well-being of the viewers seated in the stands in the arc between long-on and midwicket. It is the sort of brutality Watson unleashed on Bangladesh recently, and is capable of deciding games within a matter of minutes. Can Sri Lanka's new-ball bowlers deny Watson the chance to go after spin?

Team news

Upul Tharanga returns to the mix after his three-month suspension for failing a drug test, and is sure to feature in the XI, allowing Mahela Jayawardene to slot back into the middle order. Lasith Malinga is also back in the squad, but will sit out the first ODI as he continues to recover from a back injury. Sri Lanka had five spinners in their side for the second Twenty20, but Ajantha Mendis' brilliance almost rendered the rest redundant. How many spinners will they play this time around?

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis / Suraj Randiv, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Suranga Lakmal / Thisara Perera, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Rangana Herath

With David Warner returning home, Brad Haddin will open for Australia in Shane Watson's company, freeing up space for the returning middle-order troika. Shaun Marsh and David Hussey looked suspect against spin in the Twenty20s, but Australia may be forced to play both in an attempt to delay the start of their tail.

Australia (probable): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk) 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey / Shaun Marsh, 7 Steven Smith / Xavier Doherty, 8 John Hastings, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Doug Bollinger

Pitch and conditions

Pallekele is set to host its third international game in five days. The track had slowed down considerably by the end of the second Twenty20, allowing Sri Lanka's spinners to dominate proceedings. If the strip retains that character for the first ODI, both captains will be anxious to bat first.

Stats and trivia

  • These teams have played 72 ODIs against each other, with Australia winning 47 and Sri Lanka 22
  • Mahela Jayawardene is set to play his 343rd ODI for Sri Lanka (348th in all), which will make him the second most-capped player to have played for the country, level with Muttiah Muralitharan.
  • Ricky Ponting has made 1450 runs against Sri Lanka, making him the third highest run-getter in head-to-heads between these teams. He needs only one run to draw level with Aravinda de Silva. Adam Gilchrist leads the table with 1511 runs.


"I am developing a new ball but I haven't yet tried it. Hopefully it will come out soon."

Just when you thought Ajantha Mendis already had enough variations to torment Australia

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    @nandisiri i don't agree with you on the fact you think of Dilhara being given many chances. let us not forget that he has been injury prone and if not for that he would have been the perfect foil for malinga and the rest of our new ball bowlers. i saw him bowl not so long ago in brisbane in a side game against the bulls and he clocked well over 150 kmph. which was fantastic. all he needs is guidance which sadly SL cricket have not been able to provide. your assumptions of Dinesh chandimal and Jeevan mendis being great batsman is quite questionable . have a look at their batting techniques and you will understand why i say this. they will be able to get away with it in T20's and may be one dayers but in test matches they will be found wanting. how ever i agree banuka seems like a great batsman but i wonder just like his contemporaries royal college whether he would be another Jehan Mubarak.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2011, 9:29 GMT

    We have used some of our player monitoring software to put together a preview of some of the key contests of this summers ODI series where Sri Lanka meet Australia.

    The aim is to show how KPI's can be used to draw meaningful conclusions about how a team should approach a match, specifically in a cricketing context, based on statistical and performance analysis.

    It can be found at

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    David warner should open with shaun marsh.followed by pointing,clarke hussey,watson,haddin.Ricky, haddin.hussey r already 35+ and have atmost 2 yrs left in them.

  • Gaurav on August 10, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Subcontinent players cant play on bouncy pitches and Australians and english players have no clue on spinning wonder y we call Sachin, Dravid ,Steven Waugh and few others great.....

  • Prem on August 10, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    So Clarke is captain for Tests and ODI and Watson is his deputy in both. Clarke does not play Twenty20 while Watson does. So officially Watson is the choice when Clarke is unavailable so Watson should be captain of the Twenty20 team rather than Cameron White??? Even if White would be back in the ODI team, Watson would still be deputy to Clarke. So Watson should be captain of the Twenty20 team really. Cricket Australia muddled again!

  • Terry on August 10, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Has Warner REALLY been sent home? You couldnt make it up. Oh well, i guess we can be grateful Hilditch hasnt sent Shane Watson home. I'm sure he considered it!

  • Marcio on August 10, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    Should be a close series. I'm tipping AUS 3-2, with the following results for the 5 games: AUS-SL-SL-AUS-AUS. The problem with SL's weak bowling will be more obvious in longer formats of the game, despite favourable pitch conditions served up for them.

  • Andrew on August 10, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    @hilditchmustgo - love the name! Yep, Ferguson had to play, interestingly (apart from averaging 42 in ODIs), he averages 59 when playing under Pup. -- -- -- Whilst this is not the squad I would of picked, the team should be; 1. Watson, 2. Ponting, 3. D Hussey, 4. Clarke, 5. M Hussey, 6. Haddin, 7. Smith, 8. Hastings, 9. Johnson, 10. Doherty, 11. Bollinger. I'd like to see Punter open the batting against pace. Then with his eye in take on the SL spinners. Didn't select Marsh as I think he is overrated. There are 4 frontline bowlers + allrounders Watto & Smith, + 2 useful slow options in Pup & D Hussey. For what its worth I would of selected; 1. Watson, 2. Warner, 3. Clarke (c), 4. Ferguson, 5. Cosgrove, 6. Wade, 7. Christian, 8. Smith, 9. O'Keefe, 10. Johnson, 11. Lyon (Hauritz if fit). This would be a SL specific ODI team with a strong emphasis on YOUTH as the WC is gone. I'd have 3 spinners because that's what works (1 Leggie, 1 right, 1 left offie). Good depth to MJ @ #10.

  • David on August 10, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    How is Australias T20 batting form a worrying sign for the future that has to be one of the funniest things i have ever read.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2011, 5:58 GMT

    warner should be in opening and marsh should be on da plane home... stupid selections.. go lanka...

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