Sri Lanka aims for consecutive wins as Australia’s injury problems continue

Sri Lanka produced a touching victory in game two to level up the series thanks to an excellent bowling and fielding display. Australia collapsed under the pressure of a chase, losing 5 for 19 and being eliminated for just 189. It was Sri Lanka’s spinners, in the absence of Wanindu Hasaranga, who caused the collapse with Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage taking two wickets each before Chamika Karunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera tore through the lower order. Karunaratne took the main wicket from Glenn Maxwell and produced a nice run to remove Alex Carey to end player of the match. Add salt to the wounds of Australia, Steven Smith injured his left quad while hitting and finds himself under a cloud en route to the 3rd ODI as visitor injuries continue to climb.

Sri Lanka will take a lot of confidence from their performance that they won without Hasaranga. The successful use of Dhananjaya, particularly in the power play of the Australian openers, is a blueprint that they are sure to repeat in this series. However, they need more returns with the bat, as their entire top reached eight double digits, but no one pushed through to make more than 36.

Australia is also frustrated that their top order could not go through in Pallekele. David Warner and Smith both played well but made mistakes at key moments. Australia’s Vice Captain Alex Carey commented ahead of game three that the top order was eager to go deeper into the game and create bigger partnerships. In the field, too, they would like to sharpen up after two sloppy performances in the first two ODIs. But Australia pitched well in game two with debutant Matthew Kuhnemann putting in a fine display after being called up to replace Ashton Agar.

(last five games, most recent first)

Charith Asalanka may be one of the most talented hitters in Sri Lanka’s top ranks, but he has yet to make a real breakthrough at the ODI level. He made five scores from 50+ in 13 innings, but never got past 77. He looked good in the T20Is and ODIs this month, but has yet to start. Sri Lanka really needs him to deepen the game in Hasaranga’s absence so he can use his strength in the last 10 overs and give the home side a big score.
Matthew Kuhnemann impressed on international debut in Pallekele. He flew at short notice from the Australia A match at Hambantota and bowled and fielded superbly, taking two wickets and taking two very good catches. Even more impressive was the fact that he threw in the power play with great success during his debut, something Ashton Agar doesn’t do very often. Kuhnemann has a chance in the remainder of this series to continue moving up the Australian pecking order of spinners and make a case for being part of the Test squad if Agar’s side injury doesn’t heal in time.

Sri Lanka could very well go unchanged into game three if Hasaranga is still unavailable due to a groin injury. Their well-balanced attack worried Australia and gave Dasun Shanaka options, but the strikes still look a little vulnerable. They can bring in Bhanuka Rajapaksa, leave out Vandersay, and use Dhananjaya’s entire surplus. But it seems unlikely.

Sri Lanka (possibly): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Kusal Mendis (wk), 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Dunith Wellalage, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Jeffrey Vandersay , 11 Maheesh Theekshana

There are question marks about Smith, but he has not been ruled out yet. It is unlikely that Mitchell Marsh (calf) or Mitchell Starc (finger) are both suitable, although both are almost back† Cameron Green is available to bowl, which would allow him to return to the side. He could come in and give Aaron Finch seven bowling options, with Head potentially moving the order to number 3 if Smith is ruled out. Mitchell Marsh only plays when he’s not bowling. Australia also have Josh Inglis available if needed to replace Smith.

Australia (possibly): 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Steven Smith/Travis Head, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Alex Carey (World Cup), 6 Cameron Green, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Swepson, 10 Matthew Kuhnemann, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Rain could play a part again with both games in Pallekele interrupted. A stray thunderstorm is forecast for the afternoon. A new field in the R Premadasa Stadium may not be taking as much turn as the surface in Pallekele, but the spinners still have a role to play.

“We lost wickets at crucial moments and just couldn’t get a real partnership. So we’ll think about that. We’re in a new location, so we’ll take all the information as best we can today and when will we start working on that tomorrow. ”
Alex Carey speaking about what Australia needs to improve ahead of the 3rd ODI in Colombo

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