Australia take the field for the first time as the men’s T20 World Cup champions…and only have nine months until they need to fight to keep it. Such is the cricket calendar in the era of playing Covid catch-up that this is the beginning of the next build-up.
However, if things go to plan it should not be the most taxing of preparations for Australia (we’ll leave aside for a moment the recent loss of a head coach). It will be in home conditions and there is unlikely to be much turnover in personnel from the side that won in the UAE.
Two of the key figures from the previous World Cup – David Warner and Mitchell Marsh – have been rested for this series against Sri Lanka which gives the chance to have a look at two fresh faces in the top order: a recall for Ben McDermott to open the batting after an outstanding BBL and a debut for Josh Inglis at No. 3. Inglis, though, won’t take the gloves with Matthew Wade staying in that role at No. 7. With no Marsh, Aaron Finch will need to find four overs between Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis (unless Steven Smith turns his arm over).
They are facing a Sri Lanka side that is in the process of rebuilding (isn’t it ever thus?) but showed some promising signs in the UAE even though they could not get out of the group stage and will again have to go through the qualifying section of the World Cup in October. In Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka they have two exciting young batters who are starting to bed in at the top of the order and legspinning allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga has a formidable record with the ball. He took 2 for 22 against Australia in Dubai and could be a trump card against a side that can still struggle against wrist spin.
Sri Lanka have won more T20I matches than they have lost in Australia (5-4) but those four defeats have come in their most recent outings including a 3-0 whitewash in 2019.
In the spotlight
Josh Hazlewood is back in Australia colours for the first time since the opening Ashes Test when he suffered a side strain that would end his series. Last year was a breakout one for him in T20 cricket and he was a central part of the World Cup triumph where he both used his Test-match skills of hitting a hard length but also showed the variations he has been working on.
Dinesh Chandimal is the most experienced player in the Sri Lanka squad but his T20I record remains modest with an average of 19.79 and strike-rate of 104.51 and he was dropped during last year’s World Cup. However, in the recent Lanka Premier League he flourished in the finisher role for Colombo Stars with 277 runs at a strike-rate of 150.54. Now his challenge is to try and bring the same freedom to the top level.
Aaron Finch confirmed his XI on Thursday. The big three quicks play together for the first time since the Brisbane Test. Australia 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Ben McDermott, 3 Josh Inglis, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Kusal Mendis is unavailable having tested positive for Covid-19 since arrival. The batting order may not be set in stone Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Avishka Fernando, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Binura Fernando, 11 Maheesh Theekshana
Pitch and conditions: …. The SCG generally produces very good pitches for T20 cricket. The bigger problem may be the weather with a high chance of showers during the day and some thunderstorms.
Stats and trivia
- Wanindu Hasaranga was the joint-leading wicket-taker in T20Is last year with 36 at 11.63
- The SCG has the second-highest economy rate of grounds to have hosted more than a single men’s T20I. At 8.53 it is marginally behind Hobart on 8.75
- This match will be the first time that Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood have played in a home T20I together
“The first series after the World Cup win…so it’s really exciting to have a lot of new guys around the side as well and I guess quite a bit of pressure on after winning the World Cup. It does raise expectation. But we feel as though we’ve played some really good T20 cricket recently, so we’re excited about that.” ………….Aaron Finch
“It’s always tough playing in these conditions but we have players who are in good rhythm and were doing really well during the last few months. These five matches will definitely help us with the preparation for the World Cup.”