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August 13, 2011
Turn, turn, turn. That was what the Australians had to worry about in the lead-up to the first ODI in Pallekele, after Ajantha Mendis bewildered them in the second Twenty20 with six wickets. But to everything, there is a season - even fast bowling in the spin-friendly Sri Lankan conditions, and Mitchell Johnson's own six-wicket collection showed that the attacks might be more evenly matched than it first appeared. He used his variations and bowled to his plans and set up a comfortable win for Australia, who have a 1-0 lead as the sides move to Hambantota for the next two one-day internationals.
For Sri Lanka, the most important thing is to take a good, hard look at the way their batsmen played on Wednesday. It was as if, after their two T20 victories, they had failed to adjust to 50-over mode. The captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan, set the tone with a very loose dismissal, trying to force David Hussey over mid-off from a ball that was too full, and he wasn't the only one to throw his wicket away. Mahela Jayawardene flashed at a fullish wide ball before he had his eye in and was caught behind, and Angelo Mathews copied his captain's folly. After the first few wickets fell, they never looked like batting out their 50 overs. When they walk out to bat in Hambantota, the message will be clear: a little more circumspection, a little less action please.
Australia put in a solid all-round performance in Pallekele, but the spin threat is still present. Their top order cannot lose focus when facing Mendis and Suraj Randiv, and if Lasith Malinga returns to the side, the pace attack won't exactly be a pushover either. But one of the real positives for Australia was the captaincy of Michael Clarke, who broke the opening stand when he introduced spin, held Johnson back and used him wisely, and kept attacking when a more conservative skipper might have taken his foot of the gas. It worked in the first match, now can his men back him again?
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlight
After Australia's victory on Wednesday, Clarke was asked about how they had handled Ajantha Mendis, who managed only one wicket for the game. Clarke said he was pleased that the batsmen had given themselves a little extra time to get settled against Mendis. They won't have that luxury in every match. Shane Watson attacked Mendis but was still occasionally baffled, while Clarke and Ricky Ponting also had their moments of uncertainty. Brad Haddin was totally bamboozled. Given a bigger target to defend, or the chance to bowl first, Mendis with his variations could be a very dangerous weapon.
Ricky Ponting has made the transition from leader to follower with ease. After years of riding every bump with the team, he can now focus purely on his own performance, and allow Clarke to do the worrying. A composed half-century in the first ODI was a good sign, albeit in a low-pressure situation, and if he gets the chance to bat long he will be keen to prove why he should remain the one-day team's No. 3.
Although it was Sri Lanka's batting that let the team down in Pallekele, a change is more likely in the bowling department, especially if Malinga is fit. He missed the T20s and the first ODI with a back injury but has been training hard in an effort to be fit for Sunday's game. Suranga Lakmal would be the most logical man to miss out if Malinga returns, after he bowled poorly in the series opener.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Australia have no need to change their winning formula, unless they decide that another seamer would be advantageous after seeing Johnson's success in the opening game. But James Pattinson and John Hastings are unlikely to force a spinner out, so expect an unchanged line-up.
Australia (probable): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Pitch and conditions
Hambantota's two previous ODIs resulted in 300-plus totals for the team batting first, but both were against minnow attacks. The Australians will certainly be expecting plenty of spin once again.
Stats and trivia
"One-day cricket is pretty much made for him and he'd be a vital part of their team."
Michael Hussey knows how much difference it will make to Sri Lanka if Lasith Malinga is fit
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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