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Preview: Australia vs Sri Lanka

UPDATED 12 February, 2013 2:30PM AEST | by Martin Gabor 5

After sweeping Sri Lanka in the three game Vodafone Test Series, Australia will be looking for similar success in the Commonwealth Bank Series starting on Friday.

The five game series will be an excellent opportunity for some of the country’s up and coming talent to prove themselves ahead of this year’s tours to India and England, as well as the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Three debutants have been named in the squad for tomorrow’s opening match, with Ben Cutting set to carry the drinks. That means Aaron Finch, Philip Hughes and Usman Khawaja are all set to play their first match in the green and gold. George Bailey will replace Michael Clarke as captain, who joins Matthew Wade, David Warner and Shane Watson (injured) on the sidelines.

Despite struggling at times in the Test arena, Sri Lanka enters the ODI format brimming with confidence. They welcome back a host of talented limited overs players and boast an impressive record against Australia in recent years.

Australians will have seen a number of Sri Lanka’s stars during the second instalment of the KFC T20 Big Bash League, with Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis all excelling for their respective franchises.

Key Battle

Aaron Finch vs Lasith Malinga

Aaron Finch is arguable the form player in Australia. Finch started the year with 497 runs in the Ryobi One-Day Cup, including scores of 140 against the Blues and 154 against the Warriors. His blistering streak continued into the BBL, with the Victorian amassing 309 runs, including 111* in the first Melbourne derby, to be the competition’s top run scorer. He will relish the opportunity to play in the international arena, especially with the first game at the MCG.

The man in charge of stopping him is Lasith Malinga. The explosive seamer has enjoyed plenty of success in the 50-over game, including a world record three hat-tricks. He loves the MCG, where he shared a record 132 stand with Angelo Matthews to steal a stunning win against Australia in 2010. His mix of unplayable yorkers and slower balls will be a massive challenge for Finch, although the newfound Australian opener has already held Malinga at bay twice in the BBL this year. Malinga has been the dominant bowler in the BBL, taking 13 wickets along the way. His 6-7 at the WACA was every bit as impressive as Finch’s unbeaten century.

Wildcard 

Angelo Matthews

Matthews will be looking to make a big impact following a less than impressive Test series. The future captain of Sri Lanka managed only 175 for the series at an average of 29.17, while he picked up two wickets in the three Tests.

The talented all-rounder has enjoyed a stellar start to his ODI career, and his teammates will be looking for him to lead from the front. His 77* in 2010 was the catalyst behind Sri Lanka’s stirring upset against the Aussies at the MCG.

Last Time

Wade (49) and David Warner (48) combined to give Australia a great start in the 3rd final in last summer’s Commonwealth Bank Series. Some lusty hitting by Brett Lee and Clint McKay took the total to 231, while Malinga went for 0-69 off his 10 overs.

Upul Tharanga was the only batsman to provide any resistance, as he made a gallant 71. McKay was the hero for Australia, claiming 5-28 from 9.5 overs. Sri Lanka fell 16 runs short, handing Australia the series win.

Facts and Figures

Despite capitulating in the Vodafone Boxing Day Test, Sri Lanka enjoys a good record at the MCG in ODIs having won their past three matches at the venue.

Sweltering conditions are expected at all five venues, which could lead to excellent spin conditions on the dry tracks.

McKay has enjoyed great success against Sri Lanka. Both of his five wicket hauls have come against the tourists, at the Gabba in 2010 and Adelaide Oval last year.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 10 January, 2013 4:48PM AEST

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