AFP: Five things we learned from Sri Lanka’s first series whitewash against Australia after the hosts won the third and final Test in Colombo.
Future’s bright for
Sri Lankan cricket
Sri Lanka’s youngsters belied expectations with a string of match-winning performances against a side who came into the series as world number one. After a poor tour of England, players such as Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva and Lakshan Sandakan came of age back home.
A maiden century from Mendis and the debutant Sandakan’s seven wickets in the match laid the platform for victory in the opener in Pallekele. The 24-year-old de Silva scored a century in the final Test in Colombo to help clinch the whitewash.
Their emergence is a huge boost for a team that had been struggling to come to terms with the retirements of star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and reverses their slide down the rankings.
No end to Aussie batsmen’s Asia woes
The Australian batsmen’s inability to handle spin on Asian tracks was once again exposed. After being whitewashed by India and Pakistan, it was the third time in a row that the Australians lost all their Tests in an away series against teams from the sub-continent.
Skipper Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh did manage to score hundreds in Colombo but the batting unit failed to deliver as a whole in Galle and Pallekele where they managed a solitary half-century between them.
Australia gave themselves a fortnight to acclimatise to local conditions and Smith was at a loss to explain why the batsmen’s woes. “Can’t fault the prep, got here early, worked as hard as we can,” he said after suffering his first series defeat as captain. “It’s a hard one to grasp really... What we are doing isn’t working.”
Class-act Starc is a cut above
If one player can return home with their head held high, it’s Mitchell Starc. The left-arm speedster claimed 24 wickets at an average of just over 15, including three five-wicket hauls, on pitches that gave no help to pace bowlers.
Starc, who had only just recovered from an ankle injury, showed admirable stamina in the draining mid-summer temperatures. Now the undisputed leader of Australia’s attack, Starc claimed his 100th Test wicket in the second Test in Galle. Coach Darren Lehmann’s pre-series prediction that Starc can join Glenn McGrath, Dennis Lillee, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee in the 300 wicket club now looks prescient.
A wizard can only work so much magic
Sri Lanka spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan’s agreement to act as a consultant to the Australian bowlers was seen as a major coup and caused some alarm among his former employers. But the advice from the most successful bowler in Test match history had only a limited impact on the Australian spinners who were outclassed by their Sri Lankan counterparts, as well as by Starc.
Nathan Lyon bowled his heart out but his 16 wickets cost nearly 32 runs apiece. Jon Holland managed just five wickets in his two Tests while Steve O’Keefe – who looked good in the warm-ups – took just three scalps in the opener before flying home with a pulled hamstring. “Simply because I coach, they can’t win. It’s a process and you need to master that process over a long period of time,” Muralitharan told AFP after the first Test.
Herath needs to hang on
While Sri Lanka’s batsmen began to show that Sangakkara and Jayawardene are not entirely irreplaceable, the selectors must be praying Rangana Herath hangs on a bit longer. The 38-year-old has already retired from T20s and ODIs but remained skipper Angelo Mathews go-to man throughout the series. His 28 wickets came at an average of just 12.75, including a hat-trick in the second Test.
Sri Lanka’s next assignment is at the end of the year in South Africa when Herath could overtake Chaminda Vaas as his country’s second highest wicket-taker. Sri Lanka’s South African coach Graham Ford will be doing all he can to persuade Herath to stay on. “He just shows so much guts and fight. And for an older guy to show that, it just ignites the fight within the younger group,” said Ford.
Sri Lanka pick Avishka, Amila for ODI squad
ESPNCricinfo: A starring turn in the recent Sri Lanka Under-19 team’s tour of England has earned top-order batsman Avishka Fernando a call-up to Sri Lanka’s squad for the first two ODIs against Australia. Left-arm spinner Amila Aponso has also been named in a national squad for the first time, following good outings in South Africa with the Sri Lanka emerging team.
All-rounders Milinda Siriwardana and Thisara Perera returned to the ODI squad, having been dropped for the series against England. All-rounder Dasun Shanaka was omitted, as were Farveez Maharoof, Suraj Randiv and Chaminda Bandara. Tillakaratne Dilshan returned to the side after having missed the England tour due to personal reasons.
Fernando, 18, has not yet played any senior cricket, but recently hit consecutive hundreds - at Chelmsford and Canterbury - to help lead Sri Lanka Under-19 to an unprecedented whitewash over England Under-19. A bruising right-hand batsman, who had played for St. Sebastian’s College in Moratuwa, Fernando hit 285 runs in that three-match Youth ODI series, at an average of 95 and a strike rate of 103. He had also struck 97 in a Youth ODI against South Africa Under-19, in July.
Aponso, meanwhile, had taken 13 wickets for 207 runs against South Africa Emerging XI, in a four-day game in Potchefstroom last week, and returned good figures in the one-day matches on the same tour. He was particularly impressive in first-class cricket for Ragama Cricket Club. He claimed 47 wickets at an average of 20.97 in the most recent Premier League Tournament, to finish third on the wicket-taker’s list. The man who topped that list - left-arm wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan - was also selected. He had once been in an ODI squad during a home series against England, in 2014, but did not play a game.Siriwardana, who had made a good start to his career with bat and ball, missed out on Test selection, but has now returned to the ODI team. Thisara had only been picked for Sri Lanka A’s recent tour to England but, despite proving expensive with the ball and only sporadically effective with the bat in that series, he was picked for Sri Lanka again. All-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva was also selected, following promising returns in his debut Test series. De Silva has played one ODI - against Ireland, in June.
Nuwan Pradeep had recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained in the Test series, but Suranga Lakmal was the only other specialist seam bowler in this squad. Dushmantha Chameera and Lasith Malinga continued to be unavailable through injury.
The first of five ODIs will be played on Sunday, at Khettarama. The series later moves to Dambulla and Pallekele.
Sri Lanka ODI squad for first two ODIs: Angelo Mathews (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Avishka Fernando, Amila Aponso