Ben McDermott is set for a comeback and Josh Inglis is gearing up for his debut as Australia take on Sri Lanka in the first T20I of the five-match series in Sydney on Friday.
Australia vs Sri Lanka, first T20I
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
11 February, 19:10 local
This is also going to be Australia's first match in the post-Langer era and under interim coach Andrew McDonald. The last week has been quite a busy period for Australian cricket with Justin Langer stepping down from his position as head coach. But the World Champions will be eager to move on from that quickly as there isn't much time left with another T20 World Cup coming up later this year.
Australia v Sri Lanka
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Preparations will be in full swing as Australia look all set to test their bench strength in this series. The likes of David Warner and Mitchell Marsh have been rested. Travis Head is also unavailable for the first three T20Is and that provides a good opportunity to Ben McDermott and Josh Inglis to show their potential. Both batters have been consistent performers in the Big Bash League in the last few seasons and Finch has already confirmed that they will get a chance to prove themselves in the top order.
The Australian captain also confirmed that Matthew Wade will continue to be their keeper, which means both McDermott and Inglis will slot into the side as batters. The rest of the XI is expected to be pretty much similar with Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis forming the middle-order. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are expected to form the pace-bowling trio again, with Adam Zampa as the sole spinner.
As far as things for Sri Lanka go, they will be looking to build on to their impressive showing during the T20 World Cup last year. They couldn't make it to the semifinals but they delivered some brilliant performances. Their squad is shaping up nicely with the likes of Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka becoming mainstays in the top three. Danushka Gunathilaka is all set to return to the top of the order as his ban has ended now.
Sri Lanka's main strength is their spin bowling attack led by Wanindu Hasaranga. Maheesh Theekshana has emerged as an excellent supporting spinner to Hasaranga and the duo is expected to cause a lot of trouble to the Australian batters. The pace attack looks pretty talented too with Dushmantha Chameera expected to lead it. Winning the series will obviously be on their minds, but these five matches provide Sri Lanka an excellent opportunity to iron out the chinks and go into the World Cup as an even stronger side.
Remember the last time
The last encounter between these two sides was during the group stages of the T20 World Cup last year. Sri Lanka posted a total of 154/6 after being put into bat but Australia chased it down easily with seven wickets and 18 balls remaining. It was David Warner's 42-ball 65 at the top of the order that set up the chase for Australia. The spin bowling pair of Theekshana and Hasaranga tried their best but the lack of support from the pacers didn't allow Sri Lanka to put Australia under pressure.
Before that match, they took on each other in a three-match T20 series in 2019. Australia used the home advantage pretty well to whitewash the Lankans. The hosts registered big victories in all three matches, winning them by 134 runs, 9 wickets and 7 wickets respectively.
What they said
Aaron Finch (Australia): "Ben McDermott has been in unbelievable nick so to get him at the top of the order was really crucial for us. And Josh Inglis has been someone who has been shuffled around the order a little bit. (His selection) is a sign of how well he's played over the last couple of years, but also how great he was around the group at the T20 WC. He hasn't got the runs he would have liked throughout the Big Bash as he has done in the past. But he was playing slightly different roles. So it's a great opportunity for him."
Dasun Shanaka (Sri Lanka): "The first time you come here, everyone struggles and goes through a lot of difficulties as you gain more experience. He [Wanindu Hasaranga] is much older now so he's fit to deliver."