Australia’s white ball team will be back in action for the first time since the successful T20 World Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates when they take on Sri Lanka in a five-match series on home soil, the first match to be played in Sydney on Friday evening.
It is a series where Australia will look to rubber-stamp their dominance over the T20 world and also begin preparations for the next World Cup – which will be held down under at the end of this year in what is a tight turnaround following COVID-enforced disruptions over the past 24 months.
Australia, despite having a rather hectic schedule ahead – including a multi-format tour to Pakistan in March – have named an almost full-strength squad for this series. Only David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Swepson have been left out of the side to play Sri Lanka, with all three instead included in the 18-man touring party which will make Australia’s first tour of Pakistan in 24 years.
Warner and Marsh were immense for the eventual World Cup-winning Australians during the tournament, leading the Aussies to the eventual victory.
Warner was the tournament’s second-highest run-scorer, belting the world’s best bowlers to all parts of the UAE, eventually racing up 289 runs at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 146. Shaking off a horrid run of form leading into the tournament, Warner belted three half-centuries and was a rock at the top of the order for Australia.
Marsh, on the other hand, scored a triumphant 77 not out in the final and was a menace with both bat and ball during the tournament.
The big inclusion is Ben McDermott, who will take Warner’s spot at the top of the order. He had a huge Big Bash League, hitting a couple of centuries and whacking runs for fun. Moises Henriques, who was among the tournament’s best batsmen, while also taking plenty of wickets with the ball, has been named as the direct replacement for Marsh in the squad to play Sri Lanka.
The rest of the side seems exceptionally settled for the series, with the bowling attack led by Josh Hazlewood – who returns from injury after missing the final four Ashes Tests – and Adam Zampa, who took 13 wickets at an average of 12 during the World Cup.
If those two continue their winning form, then there is simply no reason to suggest Australia won’t continue their dominant run.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign was hardly as good, but if they are going to beat Australia, then Sydney – with a pitch which often takes considerable amounts of turn – will be the place to do it for the sub-continent nation.
The Sri Lankans, dispute recording wins against Bangladesh and the West Indies, were bundled out of the World Cup in the group stage, with that including a disheartening loss to Australia in Dubai, with Zampa taking 2 for 12 off four overs before Australia chased down 154 in just 17 overs.
Kusal Perera (35 off 25) was the best with the bat on that occasion for Sri Lanka, but it’s Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka (who was the tournament’s fifth-highest run-scorer) who will need to excel in Australia. He made 231 runs at 46 with a strike rate of 147 in the tournament.
They will also need Wanindu Hasaranga to lead the way with the ball following his 16 wickets at 9.75 with an economy of just 5.20 in the World Cup – staggering stats in a team who lost more often than they didn’t.
Despite the potential upside for Sri Lanka, their last trip to Australia in the shortest format ended in tears, and it’s hard to see them starting any differently this time around.