Venue: Galle International Stadium, Galle
Date: Wednesday 29 June – Sunday 3 July
The Australians conclude their tour of Sri Lanka with a pair of Test matches having been playing the white ball format of the game for most of the past month. Australia won the opening T20I session of the tour 2-1 before Sri Lanka replied by winning the ODIs 3-2. That sets up these two Tests as the deciding factor in whether the tour – on a winning level at least – was a success or a failure.
The last time that these two played on Sri Lanka sail it resulted in a series whitewash in favor of the home side. They took that series by a score of 3-0 and will be hopefully of a 2-0 win here. The main difference – on paper at least – is that this is a more inexperienced side for the Sri Lankans (especially in their bowling attack) and that Australia believes that lessons learned over half a decade ago will bear fruit for them here.
Sri Lanka – a team historically known for their spin attack – may decide to do something a little different here. They have a pair of pacers in Kasun Rajitha and Asitha Fernando who both starred when playing recently as Sri Lanka toured Bangladesh. Working with both old ball and new they were able to get the kind of movement that caused the Bangladeshi batsmen trouble on practically every delivery. Given how this wicket can react to the reverse seam, there is definitely a decision to make for the selectors.
Their other option is to go spin heavy and legspinner Jeffry Vandersay is in the Test squad after impressing in the ODIs. He is joined in the squad by opener Pathum Nissanka, a player making a welcome return after injury kept him out of the series against Bangladesh. It would be stunning if he didn’t start in Galle.
The big question for Australia is the health of reverse swing specialist Mitchell Starc. Starc is a star in all formats of the game and he took a stunning 10 wickets the last time that Australia played on this wicket. His injury is a frustratingly fiddly one, with a lacerated finger forcing him to miss not only the last two T20Is but also the entire ODI series.
Glenn Maxwell is back in the squad – primarily as cover for the dodgy hamstring of Travis Head – but Head looked good in the nets and seems likely to be ready to go. Steve Smith is also fighting for fitness (illness and quad) but he is another that is on track to play.
This should be a great Test and a sneaky good little two-Test series. You can see from the betting numbers that this is expected to be close. There are plenty of experienced Australian batsmen that have historically been incredibly inconsistent – or just downright poor – when travelling the subcontinent, but I think on this occasion they will get enough out of their lineup to complement the bowling and eke out a win at 14/10 with BetXchange.