Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Pallekele September 7, 2011

Sri Lanka search for Test match focus


Match facts

September 8-12, Pallekele
Start time 10:00 (04:30 GMT, 14:30 EST)

Big Picture

Australia surprised many people by outplaying Sri Lanka in their own conditions in Galle, even if the dusty pitch did mean the toss played a significant role in the outcome. Now, Michael Clarke can rack up his first series victory if the team backs up with another strong performance in Pallekele. It's nearly 18 months since the Australians have won a Test series, the last time being on their tour of New Zealand in March 2010. Much has changed for Clarke since then; on that trip, he was followed by tabloid reporters and TV cameras after his much-publicised break-up with Lara Bingle. In one sense, those days must seem a lifetime ago for Clarke, but he's also acutely aware that he hasn't made a Test century since that New Zealand series. But his second-innings 60 was key to Australia's victory in Galle, and he certainly outperformed his opposing captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Dilshan was the prime culprit in Sri Lanka's top-order failure in the first Test. In the first innings he was caught slashing wildly in the second over and in the second innings he disregarded the difficult conditions and left an enormous gate between bat and pad, and was not surprisingly bowled by a ball that jagged back off the seam. It was not a sight that would have impressed one of Dilshan's captaincy predecessors, Arjuna Ranatunga, who dished out a stinging rebuke to the team in the wake of the defeat.

''I'm not really sure if [Sri Lanka] are focused enough to play the longer version," Ranatunga told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I am very disappointed with the commitment of most of the players, in particular I am really worried about a couple of the batsmen and their commitment to the longer version of the game. I think we look much better than Australia on paper, but they are more committed." Ranatunga went on to describe the non-selection of Ajantha Mendis in Galle as "unbelievable", although it seems likely Mendis will play in Pallekele.

Australia will make one change, with Ricky Ponting having flown home for the birth of his second child. That means a Test debut for Shaun Marsh, 28, who will become Australia's 422nd Test cricketer. His father, the opening batsman Geoff Marsh, is the owner of baggy green No. 333.

Also quite new to Test cricket is the venue itself. The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, built for the World Cup, is one of the most picturesque of Test venues, set in the rolling hills just outside Kandy. It's only previous Test was between Sri Lanka and West Indies in December, and it was so badly affected by rain that not even the first innings of the match could be completed.

Form guide

(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDDLD
Australia WLLWL

In the spotlight

After his performance in Galle, one man will really be in the spotlight in this second Test: Tillakaratne Dilshan. The captain of Sri Lanka let his side down with his approach to batting, but he is a proven Test match performer. His challenge in Pallekele is not only to lead from the front with the bat, but to marshal his troops in the field in such a way as to keep the pressure on the Australian batsmen in conditions that shouldn't suit them.

Ryan Harris is the kind of bowler any captain would want in his team. He keeps going all day, finds movement in the air and off the pitch and most importantly, he takes bags of wickets. In the second innings in Galle, he picked up his second five-wicket haul in six Tests, in addition to the three five-fors he's managed in a 17-match ODI career. Harris nearly 32 and has a chronic knee problem, but for now he's one of the most important men in Australia's side.

Team news

Although it was Sri Lanka's batsmen who let them down in the first innings in Galle, it's in the bowling department that changes are most likely. The decision to leave out Mendis, whose varieties baffled some of the Australians in the one-day series, was a strange one, and he should get his opportunity this time. Suraj Randiv could be the man to make way, after he was comfortably outbowled by Rangana Herath in the first Test. And on the day before the Test, Chanaka Welegedara was struggling with a knee injury, which meant Shaminda Eranga was a chance to debut after his impressive efforts in the ODI series.

Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Suranga Lakmal, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Chanaka Welegedara / Shaminda Eranga.

Australia have already confirmed their starting line-up, with the only change being Marsh to replace Ponting at No.3. That means the minimum possible disruption to the batting line-up, with Usman Khawaja to stay at No.6, although as a top-order player for New South Wales he'd probably have enjoyed being promoted.

Australia 1 Shane Watson, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Usman Khawaja, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Trent Copeland, 11 Nathan Lyon.

Pitch and conditions

After the pitch in Galle was reported to the ICC by the match referee, a more equitable surface is expected in Kandy. The grass will be shaved off, but more moisture is likely, meaning no clouds of dust on the first day, while the assistance for the spinners may not arrive until later in the game.

Stats and trivia

  • Shaun Marsh and his dad Geoff will become only the second father-son combination to play Test cricket for Australia, after Ned Gregory, who was part of the very first Test match in 1877, and his son Syd, who played the last of his Tests in 1912
  • Marsh's inclusion means Australia will have had five debutants in three Tests, stretching back to the Sydney Ashes Test. But it's not the first time that's happened recently: five baggy greens were handed out in the space of two Tests against South Africa in early 2009
  • Mahela Jayawardene has drawn level with Don Bradman on the list of most centuries in Test cricket, with 29.


"To win the first Test at Galle in such difficult conditions was a wonderful achievement, but to win the second Test in Kandy will be a greater challenge. Over the past year or so we have performed well in the first Test of a series only to fall away in the second."
Michael Clarke

"In the last two days we've had good training sessions, everyone is ready to play their part in this match. I think we have the confidence [to bounce back], everyone is good mentally."
Tillakaratne Dilshan

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Felix on September 8, 2011, 10:04 GMT

    Mr. Dilshan, still you do not want to send Mathews at 5 or 6. Minimum at 6. May be Samaraweera will strike back. Prasanna J is the best wicket keeper in the world, but he played a six a side (not even 20/20) cricket today. But pls. keep Prasanna J as w/k and let him bat at 7. What a wasted opportunity for SL and Mathews. Mr. Dilshan, if you do not like to change your style, they at least play like 20/20, stay there for 5 overs, score 40-50 runs minimum and get out!!!! Again, left poor Eranga out...

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    @ Yes, comment is a comment, sorry if I said it in a bad way. Anyway, I dont remember Sanga failed frequently except just concluded England tour. Even there, he scored a century in 3rd match and probable saved the match for Sri Lanka. But, Mahela failed there very badly. Then, why dont you say Mahela should be dropped? Its just bacause he scored a century in 1st Test at Galle? Is your memory limited to 1 or 2 matches? Luckily you are not a selector !

  • yogi on September 8, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    Australia is defnitely going to win the series. They are on their way to become the No.1 team, where they rightfully belong. As far as SL is concerned, guys rebuilding is a tough process. You just can't replace Murali, Vaas & Jayasurya overnight.As of now, India and SL are sailing in the same boat. England beat us real bad.This trashing at the hands of Aussies, would be a very good lesson/learning experience to the young SL team.By the way guyz, why is Kulasekar not playing? As a neutral, I would just like to experience good Test Cricket. Good luck to both the teams.

  • Johnathon on September 8, 2011, 4:17 GMT

    Lanka will fail in Test Cricket unless a quality spin bowler and fast bowler steps up. Over the years, we had Vaas and Murali who were exceptional (Murali being the greatest bowler in history). When Vaas was done, Malinga stepped up and even though initially he wasn't that great, he improved and now is one of the most lethal bowlers out there (along with Dale Steyn and Brett Lee). However, early this year Sri Lanka got a double blow. Malinga and Murali retires from Test Cricket. This put Sri Lanka in a huge pothole that they are still currently trying to get out of. Lakmal looks to be a good find, but Welegedera lacks discipline/talent and as for the spinners, well Mendis has not been great recently and Herath is 33 years old. Hopefully this new guy Prassana will impress on debut. First class record and list A average is under 20!!!

  • Jeremy on September 8, 2011, 3:16 GMT

    Usman Khawaja deserves to be pushed up the order, especially if Hughes continues to wobble the way he is at the moment...

  • Kasun on September 8, 2011, 3:02 GMT

    I think SL should change their batting line-up and bring lahiru in for tharanga. For me the batting line up - lahiru, dilshan, sanga, mahiya, angelo, samaraweera, jayawar and rest. Hope selectors can see what sort of damage they are doing by sending angelo later in the order. Not fair for him. DILSHAN please play some smart cricket.

  • Nishani Lochna Madhumali on September 8, 2011, 2:24 GMT

    Sri Lanka are spending a very difficult time in CRICKET after the WC. This will be another tough match for them. Aussies are far better than SL even in SL. Tharanga Paranawithana should be removed & Thirimanna must be given a chance in this match. Ajantha Mendis should play instead of Randiv. Anyway this is going to be a match SL have 25% chance to win while Aussies have 75% chance of winning where only the talents & skills of the players are concerned.

  • Mark on September 8, 2011, 2:09 GMT

    Sri Lanka lost the first test because they outsmarted themselves. Australia are currently struggling with their batting but they're not struggling with their bowling. They have a plethora of bowlers in the side, and ready to come into the side.

  • Benn on September 8, 2011, 1:20 GMT

    @AKS286. Beer is a very talented bowler, but he is a more defensive style of bowler than Lyon. Australia are playing only one spinner, otherwise Beer would be in. Voges and Jaques are both well over 30, and neither of them are on the tour, nor have played test cricket recently. It would be a big backwards step to replace Khawaja with Voges. For the first time in a long time I'm happy with what the selectors have done for the first two tests... although in saying that, calling up David Warner as a back-up seems strange when other players have made more of a claim for that spot (Callum Ferguson for example)

  • Nathan on September 8, 2011, 1:14 GMT

    Good point Marcio, ranatunga's comments cannot really be sustained by a realistic analysis of the sides on paper, which is surprising cos he is usually so balanced and fair when it comes to commenting about Australia *lol*. Joshua Johnson - Australia scored significantly more in their second innings than SL did in their first so there was probably a bit more to the result than the luck of the toss. But yeah I know how it is with some people, Aus lose and the other team was way better, Aus win and they're lucky. Australia have been mighty 'lucky' against SL over the years, let's hope it continues.

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