Australia dominated Sri Lanka in the first Test between the two sides, which concluded within three days on Friday, July 1. The Aussies were set a measly target of five runs after the Lankans' batting collapsed and were bowled out with only 113 on board.
Sri Lanka’s collapse in the second innings was orchestrated by Nathan Lyon and part-time spinner Travis Head, who took four wickets each. This highlighted the weakness of Lanka’s batting unit which had become weaker due to the absence of their talismanic all-rounder Angelo Matthews.
Australia have had a great start to the series under new head coach Andrew McDonald. This was their first win in the island nation since 2011 and also their first ever win batting second in Sri Lanka. The duo of Dimuth Karunaratne and Chris Silverwood need to revisit their plans and execute better.
Here are three areas that the island nation needs to focus on ahead of the second test which starts on July 8.
3) Can Dinesh Chandimal fill the void left by Angelo Matthews at No. 4?
Coming into the series, Angelo Matthews was in top form, scoring 344 runs against Bangladesh in the two-match series away from home. He was awarded the 'Player of the Month' by the ICC for the month of May.
Unfortunately, he was ruled out of the Test, having tested positive for Covid-19. The hosts missed the services of their most experienced and in-form batter in the second innings.
The 35-year old batter will be a doubtful starter for the second test as it will take two weeks to fully recover from Covid-19. In his absence, Oshada Fernando was asked to bat at number four but he did not impress and constantly struggled during his 12-ball stay.
Dinesh Chandimal scored his first century since 2018 against Bangladesh last month. The Sri Lankan think-thank needs to take a call if the experienced Dinesh Chandimal can be promoted to number four and take additional responsibility for shepherding the weak middle order.
2) Sweeping problems for Sri Lanka batters?
The Lankan batters started off with positive intent in the second innings trying to take on the Australian bowlers. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne was the aggressor and scored 23 quick runs in 20 balls before falling to Nathan Lyon. After that, everything fell apart as they were bundled out in less than 23 overs.
Interestingly, four of the seven batsmen fell while playing the sweep shots. Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood also stressed the fact. He said:
"We've just got to be better at playing the sweep, to be honest. We saw the Australians use the sweep to great effect. When I was here with England, we saw Joe Root and Jos Buttler use the sweep to great effect. Root gave an exhibition on how to play on spinning wickets, which led to the best season of his career."
"If we're going to play on turning wickets, it's something we're going to need to be able to do. There are other things we can do - use the depth of the crease and use your feet to get to the pitch of the ball. But the sweep is something that when you're playing on turning wickets you have to do. It's a productive shot."
1) Young spinners need to step up
One of the main reasons why Sri Lanka lost the game was the performance of their spinners compared to their Australian counterparts. While Nathan Lyon consistently hit the four-and-a-half meter mark from the stumps, which was effective, Embuldeniya bowled fuller and was punished.
He was taken apart by the Australian batters and conceded close to five runs an over in 15 overs without taking a wicket. However, Ramesh Mendis looked the pick of all the bowlers, taking four wickets at an economy rate of three and a half.
If the island nation wants to put up a fight in the second Test then both their spinners need to consistently bowl at the right lengths and pick wickets.
Poll : Will Dinesh Chandimal play at No 4?