Sri Lanka will go up against Australia in the second Test of the Warne-Murali series at the Galle International Stadium on Friday (July 8). With the series being led by Australia at 1-0, the game assumes huge significance in the WTC Rankings table. Australia will go all-out to take the 2-0 series and finish the tour on a high.
While Australia played a near-perfect first Test, with Nathan Lyon and Cameroon Green being their star performers, Sri Lanka were ordinary with the bat in the second innings and their spinners were also ineffective.
The second Test has a few intriguing player battles which will decide if Sri Lanka can hold the series or Australia will run away with it. We look at the three player battles that could decide the match.
1) Angelo Matthews vs Nathan Lyon
Angelo Matthews has been the star performer for the Lankan team in the last few months. His contribution of 199 runs in the first Test and 145 runs in the second Test helped Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh.
After missing out in the second innings of the first Test against the Aussies due to COVID-19, the former Sri Lankan captain is expected to return and play a key role in the match.
The 35-year-old batter is a good player of spin due to his superior footwork as seen in the Bangladesh series.
On the other hand, Nathan Lyon will be full of confidence after picking up nine wickets in the first Test. While the majority of the Sri Lankan batters tried to attack Lyon and fell while attempting the sweep shot, it will be interesting to see how Angelo Matthews tackles Lyon.
2) Ramesh Mendis vs Steven Smith
Ramesh Mendis was the pick of Sri Lankan spinners in the first Test, taking four wickets at an economy of under 3.5. His variations and consistent length troubled the Australian batters.
Steven Smith, who had quiet outing in the first Test, will be looking to attack the Lankan spinners. He averages more than 40 in the subcontinent and is considered to be the best batter against spin in the current X1.
If Ramesh Mendis can get Steven Smith early, then the island nation will have a chance to restrict Australia to modest totals.
3) Kusal Mendis vs Mitchell Swepson
Kusal Mendis had a disappointing first Test where he scored in single digits in both innings. While he was out caught behind to Starc in the first innings, he fell to Lyon in the second innings.
The young Lankan batter has played some memorable knocks against Australia in the past. His 176 against Australia at Pallekele in 2016 was a game-changing knock, which helped his side win the Test.
Batting at No. 3, the Lankan batter need to take on more responsibility and help ensure that his side doesn’t collapse like a pack of cards as they did in the second innings.
Meanwhile, Swepson, who took five wickets in the first Test, will hope to continue his good form against the island nation.
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