Match Preview – Australia vs Sri Lanka, ICC T20 Men’s World Cup 2022/23, Match 19, Group 1

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Is this possible? Is Sri Lanka going into this match better than defending champion Australia?

You could make a case, but not really. It’s complicated. Australia was so deeply beaten by New Zealand in their tournament opener, their NRR has plummeted to a truly appalling -4.45. Sri Lanka, which has been the first to beat Ireland, has an NRR of 2,467.

NRRs only come into play when teams are equal points ahead of the semifinals. But you strive to be the top two teams in a group of six teams. The competition is cutthroat. And NRRs will weigh on the minds of teams. Sides as far back as Australia, who are normally expected to beat Sri Lanka on home circuits, have that little extra sense of pressure on them. They don’t just want to beat Sri Lanka; they want to win big.

Sri Lanka will be content with just winning. In Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana and Dhananjaya de Silva they have better spinners than Australia. But on paper, Sri Lanka doesn’t win many battles. They don’t have a pace attack of the quality of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. And while Kusal Mendis looks like he’s working himself up to serious form, Sri Lanka’s middle class didn’t deliver any serious numbers in the qualifiers. They rely heavily on those 8-12 overs of spin.

If a disturbance is to occur here, some stars must be aligned. Players like Dasun Shanaka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa may need to produce the kind of innings they did in the recent Asian Cup, which Sri Lanka won. Sri Lanka’s inexperienced navigators will also have to perform above expectations.

Form guide (completed agreements, most recent first)

Australia LLLWW

Sri Lanka WWWLW

In the spotlight

Australia’s openers are their top scorers this year, which isn’t really surprising. However, they have hurt Sri Lanka before and will be confident they can beat the opposition’s incipient seam attack. Aaron Finch has three fifties and strikes at 136 against Sri Lanka. David Warner has mustered Sri Lanka in the past, reaching six fifty and one hundred. His 642 runs against them is his highest against all opponents, and he has scored those runs with a strike rate of 141. Sri Lanka will probably need them early to make it a game.

While Wanindu Hasaranga is making headlines, Maheesh Theekshana has also built quite a record. After 28 T20Is he has 29 wickets and an impressive economy of 6.42 when you consider that he often throws at least one over in the power play. In the absence of Sri Lanka’s go-to death bowler in Dushmantha Chameera, Theekshana will likely also have to bowl towards the end of an innings. So far he has done his job well. He has seven wickets and has maintained an economy rate of 5.86 in this tournament so far.

Australia batter's collapse will worry Aaron Finch, Australia vs New Zealand, ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022, Sydney, October 22, 2022

Australia’s opening defeat to New Zealand has brought their NRR to a staggering -4.45•ICC/Getty Images

Location and conditions

There is a small chance of rain in Perth, but it is unlikely to have a huge impact on cricket. Not much is known about how the Perth stadium pitch will behave as not only is it a new stadium, little cricket has been seen during the pandemic. But it is often groundbreaking territory.

Team news

Sri Lanka will likely put Pathum Nissanka back into the XI, and may also bring sailor Pramod Madushanka back into the game, with both appearing to have recovered from niggles. This means Ashen Bandara, and maybe Lahiru Kumara, are going out.

Sri Lanka (Possible): 1 Kusal Mendis (wk), 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Charith Asalanka, 5 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Pramod Madushan. 11 Binura Fernando/Lahiru Kumara

Australia is likely to remain unchanged despite their big loss.

Australia (possibly): 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt.), 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Tim David, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Statistics and trivia

Australia won eight of the T20s they played at home against Sri Lanka, against seven against Sri Lanka. One of those wins was a Super Over win.

Dasun Shanaka has had an outstanding 2022, hitting 456 runs with a strike rate of 142. But he has had a modest World Cup so far, scoring 29.0 and 8 in his three innings.

The three most productive T20I batters against Sri Lanka are Australia batters. Warner is number 1 and Finch number 3, with 446 career runs against them. Glenn Maxwell, at number 2 on this list, has the most impressive stats – he hit 459 with a stroke rate of 175.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is the Sri Lanka correspondent for ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf

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