Australia and Sri Lanka both won last time out in the Super 12 of the 2021 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup. Now they’ll vie to move closer toward qualification for the semi-final when they meet at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday. Australia’s hopes will rest on the bat of Steve Smith and Josh Hazlewood’s pace bowling. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka can counter with batters Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who were both prolific against Bangladesh.
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Australia vs Sri Lanka Preview
Smith’s ability to find the boundary regularly gives Australia a chance in any game. He was in decent form during the five-wicket win over South Africa, striking 35 off 34 balls, including a trio of fours. Skipper Aaron Finch will expect more from Smith this time. He’ll also look for opener David Warner to produce a more meaningful showing in front of the wicket. Warner was caught by Heinrich Klaasen after mustering a mere 14 runs from 15 deliveries against the Proteas.
At least Warner and Smith were able to consistently make contact with the ball. Sri Lanka’s efforts to disrupt their efficient strike rates will be underpinned by pacer Lahiru Kumara. His fiery temperament got the better of him against Bangladesh, when Kumara sent Liton Das packing then engaged in a scuffle with the batter that resulted in both incurring fines.
A fully focused Kumara will cause problems on the sluggish wicket in Dubai. It’ll also help if Maheesh Theekshana has recovered in time to feature. He’s been dealing with a side strain, but Theekshana is a crafty off-break bowler who can create tricky movement with the ball when healthy.
The Lions will also hope for another stingy outing from Chamika Karunaratne. He bowled eight dots and allowed only 12 runs during three overs against Bangladesh. The 25-year-old is able to vary the pace of his attack and could prove an unlikely hero against Smith, Warner and Co.
Sri Lanka’s innings will hinge on the efforts of Asalanka and Rajapaksa. They dominated during the five-wicket victory over Bangladesh, combining for 133 runs. Asalanka was the star man, slogging an unbeaten 80 that included five fours and as many sixes. Rajapaksa’s 53 featured three fours and a hat-trick of sixes. With a little more from openers Kusal Perera and Pathum Nissanka, the Sri Lanka order would be the most dynamic in the tournament.
Australia’s way of combatting Sri Lanka’s power from the crease will depend on pace duo Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. The former claimed the wickets of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen against South Africa. Cummins was also impressive, allowing an economy rate of just 4.25, bowling 14 dots and yielding a mere 17 runs from four overs. Having Mitchell Starc available would also be a boost, but the left-hander is a doubt after limping off the field during his nation’s latest practice session on Wednesday, per CricTracker.
If Starc can’t bowl, Glenn Maxwell will be required to get through at least a couple of overs. Fortunately, the experienced all-rounder can be an asset in both phases of the game, so Finch’s squad will remain well equipped to put a dent in the Sri Lanka order, no matter who has the ball.
Australia’s rounded lineup should have enough to win, but Sri Lanka’s ability to amass runs in bunches could upset the favourites.