Starting December 14th, Sri Lanka will take on hosts Australia in a 3-Test series for the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy. This will be Sri Lanka’s 6th Test visit to Australia, but it is only the second time that they are playing three Tests in the series. Sri Lanka have never won a Test in Australia till date.
The Bellerive Oval in Hobart will be the venue for the series opener from December 14-18, followed by the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from December 26-30 and the final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground from January 3-7, which will be the first of the new year. Sri Lanka have played twice at Hobart and once at Melbourne – losing on all occasions. They have not played in Sydney thus far.
Head To Head and Recent Record
The two teams have played each other 23 times since they first met at Kandy in 1982-83. Australia have overwhelmingly dominated the numbers, winning 14, drawing 8 and losing only 1 – the loss coming in Sri Lanka in 1999-00 where they also lost the series. The gap gets even more widened when it comes to Tests in Australia, with the hosts winning 8 and drawing 2 of the 10 Tests played. The most recent series between the two countries was played in Sri Lanka in 2011-12, when Australia, under new captain Michael Clarke won the 3-Test series 1-0. The last series in Australia was in 2007-08, when Australia won the 2-Test series 2-0.
Form Book and Ranking
Australia lost a chance to regain the top spot in Test cricket after their big defeat to South Africa at Perth, thus keeping them at 3rd place. However this was Australia’s first series loss since the Ashes defeat in 2010-11. In between, they have recorded overseas series wins in Sri Lanka and the West Indies, and a 4-0 drubbing of India at home.
Sri Lanka continue to be ranked 6th, as they drew the recent home series against New Zealand. Earlier this season they beat Pakistan at home. It is their away record which has been worrying though – they have not won an away series since 1999-00 (excluding Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the Asian Test Championship) when they won in Pakistan. Sri Lanka have won only 6 Tests overall (excluding Zimbabwe) outside the sub-continent, none of which have come in Australia.
Sri Lanka will depend upon their in-form left arm spinner Rangana Herath (source – theguardian.com)
Players To Watch Out For
Rangana Herath has been in great form throughout 2012, having bagged 55 wickets in just 8 matches at an average of under 21. Australia are not exactly great players of left arm spin, and their batsmen would do well to take him seriously. Ever since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, Herath has shouldered Sri Lanka’s spin bowling responsibility and he has not disappointed – his exploits even helping his side to a maiden Test win in South Africa last season.
Michael Hussey was in excellent form the last time these two teams met in 2011-12 – he was named Man of the Match in all three Tests and also Man of the Series. He averages almost 109 in 5 Tests against Sri Lanka, and has made 4 hundreds. He has remained consistent throughout his 7 year career, and 2012 has been no different – he averages 51 so far this year. He provides a lot of value at No.6 to Australia, and his record against Sri Lanka will hold him in good stead.
Michael Hussey will look to enhance his excellent record against Sri Lanka
Although Sri Lanka surprised everyone by beating South Africa for the first time in a Test around this time last year, doing a repeat in Australia will be tough. More so, Australia’s front-line pace bowlers will be back in the team. With all respect to Sri Lanka, the most likely prediction I can come up with is a 2-0 win for Australia.