Dubai: Australia, still looking for that elusive T20 World Cup trophy, may enjoy the edge but will have to be wary of Sri Lankan spin attack when they face off in the only match of the day at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday.
The two countries have a history of meeting in a few marquee clashes in major ICC tournaments - with Arjuna Ranatunga’s men having the last laugh in the final of 50-overs World Cup final in 1996 while the Aussies turned the tables on the Islanders in 2007 final. The cricketing fortunes of Lanka, who won the 2014 edition of World T20, has dipped in recent years though with them being forced to make the cut in the UAE through the qualifiers.
However, Aaron Finch’s men, who barely managed to scamper home in their opening game against South Africa, cannot afford to take things for granted against Dashun Shanaka’s youth force - who have played some competitive cricket in the last few months. A 2-1 series win in this format against a visiting Indian team, led by Shikhar Dhawan in July, has certainly done a world of good to their confidence.
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The availability of off spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who missed the win over Bangladesh owing to an injury, could boost the team’s morale while leg-spinning all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga can pose a few questions on the Dubai track.
Their batting, however, looks relatively thin and revolves around openers Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando and skipper Dasun Shanaka.
Despite being the favourites on paper, Australia have a few worries to address - the biggest of them being the batting form of senior opener David Warner. While his ordeal during the IPL has been too well documented, the former vice-captain failed again during the first match against Proteas - and tried to keep up a brave face in a media interaction on Wednesday.
“I actually think people talking about my form is quite funny,” he said, before adding:’’I laugh at the matter because at the end of the day, I’ve played hardly any cricket.’’
Skipper Finch hardly did any better and the onus to steer the innings will fall on former skipper Steve Smith and allrounder Glenn Maxwell - with the latter coming out of a successful stint in the IPL here along with Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The pace bowling, of course, is the most heavyweight among the teams on view here with Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins coming into the tournament with huge reputations. While Hazlewood had a successful IPL with champions Chennai Super Kings, Cummins decided to opt out of the franchise league to keep himself fresh for this tournament and the Ashes that follows immediately after.
The Sri Lankan batting line-up will have to show plenty of career to make this an even contest upfront.
Catch the match
Australia vs Sri Lanka
Dubai International Stadium
Match starts at 6 pm UAE.