Sri Lanka v Australia - 2nd Test Match @ Galle
Sri Lanka's stunning 106 run come from behind victory in Kandy has suddenly ignited a series many feared would be one way traffic. Australia were humbled in this match by Sri Lanka's predominantly spin attack as they failed to survive the final day bowled out for just 161 in 88.3 painstaking overs for the visitors. Despite despite bowling out the home side for just 117 on day 1 Australia were handsomely beaten when all was said and done. You could barely write a ticket for Angelo Matthew's side heading into the contest having struggled for test wins in the past 2 years against moderate opposition. However after a magical innings from Kusal Mendis combined with a 9 wicket performance from wily veteran Regana Herath, Sri Lanka dominated the test from Day 1 onwards. While doubts remains about their inexperienced batting line up and a pace attack ravaged by injuries Sri Lanka have a formidable record at Galle, the venue for the Second Test, winning over 50% of their Test matches at the ground. Australia are expected to make just the one injury enforced change with John Holland replacing Steven O'Keefe. Galle might be an unwelcome sight for the visitors with another raging turner expected in a place where the locals have often flourished. The rebuilt ground at Galle is one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. It is a a place of history and tragedy having been swept away in the devastating Tsunami of 2004.
Australia Under Pressure
With this series buried away in the middle of winter back in Australia it initially received little attention back home. Steve Smith's men were expected to sweep aside a Sri Lankan side that had been floundering of late without the recently retired Mahele Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. However the Australia's familiar frailties away from home were again exposed as there batsman were picked apart by the Sri Lankan spinners. Australia have recently been beaten by India, Pakistan and England in road series and are not the same beast they are on the hard, true wickets back home. Whilst the side reclaimed the Number 1 mantle with an impressive home summer and triumph in New Zealand doubts remain over whether this side can dominate away from home. Australia are now suddenly 1-0 down in the 3 test series and are in a real contest here. They will let slip the Number 1 ranking with a series loss here in Galle. Australia must find way rebound in Galle, on a track unlikely to suit the visitors. Australia's misfiring batsman will be looking to hit back from a horror outing in Kandy. Only Steve Smith managed to pass 50 as Australia collapsed in both innings. David Warner had a particularly poor test, the worst of any Australian opener in 20 years with just 1 run combined in both innings.
Holland Gets His Chance
John Holland must have wondered over the past few years whether he would ever get the chance to wear the baggy green or wear Australian colours at any level. The 29 year old replaces fellow left arm spinner Steven O'Keefe after O'Keefe was forced home early with a hamstring injury. Holland will no doubt be proud man having fought his back from 3 serious shoulder injuries to finally get his opportunity at the highest level. Last season he appeared on the scrap heap as he managed just 2 games for Victoria with Fawed Ahmed often chosen alone as Victoria's number one spinner. Holland only has a steady record at First class record with a tick over 100 wickets at an average over 35 with the ball. In 2009, Holland was thought highly enough by the Australian selectors to be picked for an Australian ODI Tour of India however he was consigned to the bench for the tour. Holland will be super keen to impress, with the pitch at Galle likely to take significant turn. With an Indian tour just around the corner Holland will be relishing the chance to keep his position in Australia's spin rotation.
Verdict - Well I was way off the money in Kandy as Sri Lanka ended up convincing winners. With Galle expected to turn it is hard to see anything other then another result wicket. Ill stick with Australia but with little conviction here. I just can't see Sri Lanka getting another freakish contribution with the bat, with Mendis magic was essentially the difference in the test. I think Australia will bat a bit better, however I still think the spinners can expose them. I reckon Australia can scramble over 300 in their first innings and get an unconvincing win. Australia by 45 runs or 3 wickets. Herath to take 10 wickets for the match. Warner or Steve Smith to score 100 in Australia's first innings.