Sri Lanka Look for a Clean Sweep
Australia head to the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo looking to avoid a series whitewash against a suddenly rampant Sri Lankan side. Sri Lanka destroyed Australia in Galle in the 2nd Test winning by a commanding 229 ruins to wrap up the series. It was a memorable display from a side given little chance going into the series. They were led by relatively unknown off spinner Dilruan Perera who managed a remarkable 10-wicket haul as well as a half century for the match. Australia have played 177 Test series of 3 tests or more and only been whitewashed 4 times. That goes on the line in Columbo this week, as Australia cling by a thread to their Number 1 Test Ranking. Similarly Sri Lanka have played in 50 test match series of 3 games or more and only achieved a clean sweep on 3 occasions. These were against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and a struggling West Indies side in 2011. With this pitch in Colombo unlikely to take as much significant turn as Kandy and Galle, Australia has an opportunity to at least gain some confidence before they tour India in February.
Australian Batsman Under Pressure
The embarrassing nature of the defeat against a rebuilding Sri Lankan side has emphasised the need to address Australia's spin woes. Australia head to Colombo with all eyes on their batsman and how they will respond to the pressure on them after Australia were bowled out for less then 200 twice in Galle. Much has been said and written over the past week as Australia digest a humbling series loss which has been both limp and stunning. An 8th straight loss in the sub continent has led to much debate about hat has gone wrong. Justin Langer argued Australia's problems were systematic and unlikely to be resolved by simply making changes. Darren Lehmann was a little more frank saying every position under scrutiny in a batting display that he described as below international standard. Australia have often shuffled their bowlers to suit foreign conditions and they may be looking to similar tactics with their batsman when they travel to India in February. The likes of Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh are most under pressure after failures in the opening 2 test matches. Runs here could effectively book their spots for India, while twin failures and the selectors might be looking elsewhere.
Shaun Marsh's Final Chance
Shaun Marsh has had a turbulent International career and he may be given another opportunity here in Colombo. Marsh has played 17 test matches and averages a respectable 37. He has always looked a player of high class and when in form makes batting look effortless. However injuries and inconsistency have plagued his career just when things look to be going well. Persistent hamstring injuries have seen Marsh's fielding been bought into question and his batting has often been one paced. Marsh for all his class, average less then 40 at first class level which is criminal for a player of his class. I don't think his problems are technical, rather mental and this was seen during a home series against India where we went on a woeful run of low scores. Marsh appeared frazzled against a mediocre Indian seam attack which the rest of the Australia's batsman feasted upon. Only a few months before hand, Marsh had played significant innings against a world class South African attack in South Africa. It was indeed in Sri Lanka where Marsh made a memorable test debut scoring 141 in Pallekele. He is a good player of spin bowling and whilst I have knot been a huge fan of him in the past I think he deserves the nod over Joe Burns here. Marsh is a player more capable of scoring runs in India and the selectors will want to get him established at the top of the order before that challenge.
Verdict - Call me a sucker for punishment or a down right fool but I'm predicting an Australian win in Columbo. If they can win the toss and put a score of 280 plus on the board they can put Sri Lanka's suspect batting under pressure. If Sri Lanka win the toss and post 300 forget everything I just said!!. I just think maybe with the heat out of the series Sri Lanka might relax a little here. I think Shaun Marsh might score runs if given the chance. They are not side known for clean sweeps and the pitch is likely to suit the tourists a little more here. Australian by 30 runs or 2 wickets.