An upbeat Sri Lanka went to Australia threatening to continue their outstanding Pakistan form, but like a skyrocket that veers off and flies through the neighbour’s open window, they only managed to wreak the most alarming – though spectacular – type of damage. It is difficult to imagine how the Adelaide match could have gone any worse. Kasun Rajitha’s record 0 for 75 made headlines, but the spinners also went at more than 10 an over, and Lasith Malinga went wicketless. On the batting front, no one made 20. Sri Lanka have had some limp limited-overs performances in the past two years, but this was among the very worst.
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Australia don’t exactly have the record of an ace T20 side, having won only two of their seven most-recent series, but may have reason to consider themselves one of the best outfits in the world, with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith. Plenty is known about the explosive top three – Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell rounding it out – but there is a cohesive attack there too. On Sunday, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins essentially ended what slim chances Sri Lanka had of chasing down a gargantuan target, by blasting out the top three inside four overs. Sri Lanka could then barely get the Australian spinners off the square, and surrendered a clump of wickets to the wristspinner Adam Zampa, as they often do.
One year out from the T20 World Cup at home, Australia seem like they have the building blocks of a strong team at their disposal. When they arrived in Australia, Sri Lanka thought they had building blocks too. They have the galling challenge of winning in Brisbane if they are to avoid not only a series loss, but also talk of the Pakistan series having been a false dawn.
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Australia WWWLW (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWWWW
In the spotlight
There seems to be no team Glenn Maxwell enjoys playing more. He walloped 62 at a strike rate of 221 on Sunday, but going by his overall record against Sri Lanka, he might have actually underperformed. In four innings against them, he averages an astounding 140.5 (there are two not outs in there), with a strike rate 225. Particularly on tracks that do not offer drastic turn, Maxwell appears to have a psychological hold over the Sri Lanka attack – their bowlers seemingly incapable of out-manoeuvring or out-thinking him. More than a fifth of Maxwell’s career boundaries have come against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka made a litany of mistakes in the first match, but the first might have been to put Australia in to bat on what seemed an excellent batting surface. The decision seems especially strange when you account for Sri Lanka’s four previous T20s, which they had won batting first. Captain Lasith Malinga, who finds himself in the odd position of having to reimpose his leadership after the team did well without him in Pakistan. A victory at the Gabba could ease the pressure on him a little.
Mitchell Starc will miss the second T20 to attend his high-jump champion brother’s wedding. Billy Stanlake will likely play in his stead.
Australia (possible): 1 David Warne, 2 Aaron Finch (capt.), 3 Glenn Maxwell, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Ashton Turner, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Billy Stanlake
Sri Lanka will likely leave Rajitha out and get Isuru Udana into the XI. They may also consider dropping the out-of-form Kusal Perera for Niroshan Dickwella.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Kusal Mendis, 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 4 Oshada Fernando, 5 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt.), 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Pitch and conditions
There is no rain expected, but cloud cover is forecast, which could aid swing with the new ball. Otherwise, expect your standard fast, bouncy Gabba surface.
Stats and trivia
Sri Lanka have lost seven out of the eight-most recent T20s that Malinga has captained. Their only victory came against New Zealand, when Malinga took four wickets in four balls.
Maxwell’s three most-recent T20I scores are 62 off 28, 113* off 55, and 56 off 43. The 113 and 56 had come in February, in India.
Sri Lanka have won each of their three previous T20 series in Australia.