Warning signs for Australia ahead of spider litmus test in Galle

Knowing what’s coming is one thing, playing it is quite another. There were some smiles from David Warner as he watched supplies tear down his edge during the 99 he made in Colombo on Tuesday, but the slump of Australia deciding the ODI series did has sharply put what they have to contend with for the rest of the tour.

Warner went on to say a good game despite the series defeat, praising Australia’s positives challenged by Sri Lanka’s phalanx of spinners, who threw 43 overs in the fourth game ahead of the two Tests in Galle starting next week.

“We always expected to take wickets, so it’s fantastic preparation for us,” he said. “We really like that they play back-to-back on the wickets…that’s what we want, we can’t get that practice in the nets – the nets are green.

“For us it’s great practice in the middle with these dustbins. It’s going to be exciting for the test matches in Galle because we know what we’re going to achieve there. This is extreme spin, you don’t normally see this type from wickets.

“You only see them here. India is completely different…they’re good wickets actually [in India]† And they spin later on day three or four [of Tests]†

Warner was part of the Australian side that lost the Tests 3-0 during the 2016 tour of Sri Lanka. He made 163 runs at 27.16 in a run where only Steven Smith (average 41.16) and Shaun Marsh (average 76.50 of one test) crossed the 30 mark while the lineup was enjoyed by Rangana Herath, who claimed 28 wickets at 12.75. †
There is one ODI left, but thoughts turn to the two Tests starting next Wednesday. Before the tour, Marnus Labuschange said he saw how Joe Root found success in Sri Lanka last year when he looted 426 runs in the two-game run. Usman Khawaja, who has transformed his game against spin after struggling earlier in his career, is making a vital player following his prolific return to Pakistan, but it will likely be a steep learning curve for the likes of Cameron Green, Alex Carey and even Labuschagne.
Mitchell Marshanother player who was on the 2016 tour and matched Warner’s run count across the three games believes Australia’s recent T20 World Cup success and Pakistan’s Test series win are testament to how the batters are have been improved against spider.

“It’s probably a little hard to say that, given that we’re down 3-1 in this series now, but I think if you look across the board, all our players, especially on the whiteball team , we all have a lot of experience in recent years and have improved a lot while playing spin,” said Marsh. “It came out in the World Cup, the way we all played, and the Test team has some really good players from spin. Looking forward, the Test series is going to be a great one. We’re going to get Bunsen burners of course, so it’s going to be great to to look at.”

The 1-0 Test series victory in Pakistan earlier this year was a perfect example of overcoming circumstances that required the game to be played deep on flat wickets. Australia continued to use the term that it was a 15-day test and they won it on the latter. Reverse swing became as much of a deciding factor as spin. Galle, however, will likely be different if recent history hinges on anything. The game could go much faster.

However, if Australia wants to get a glimpse of what might greet them, the last time Sri Lanka played in Galle is probably a better guide. In two games against the West Indies late last year, Embuldeniya, Mendis and Jayawickrama shared 38 wickets. The fast bowlers sent down just 27 overs in both games. However, there is some thought that under new head coach Chris Silverwood, that pace may not be so forgotten.
It will be interesting if any of the spinners who have harassed Australia in the ODIs get called up. From the front liners, alone Wanindu Hasaranga has played Tests and he averages 100.75 from four matches. Together with Jeffrey Vandersay and Maheesh Theekshana, they are seen as specialists. Embuldeniya, who has 71 wickets in 16 Tests, has glimpsed performing the Herath role, but has not had the same consistency. It cannot be ruled out that 19-year-old Dunith Wellalage will get a quick promotion.

Regardless of the roster, whoever is lining up for Sri Lanka, Australia knows the challenge that is likely to come their way. That doesn’t mean it gets any easier. Galle may be the litmus test of how far their game of spin has come since 2016.

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