What. A. Ball.
Australia will be back in whites for the first time since whitewashing New Zealand 2-0 in February this year.
This time though, the conditions and opposition will be a lot different as out go the pace-friendly surfaces and in come the spin-friendly tracks and hot and humid weather.
The last time Australia toured Sri Lanka was back in 2011 and even though the baggy greens found the going tough in three-match Test series, they still managed to secure a 1-0 win.
On this occasion, Australia have a target on their back for two separate reasons. The first can be attributed to the fact that Sri Lanka will be looking to avenge their loss from five years ago, while the second reason is a win over Australia, who are the top-ranked Test team at the moment, will give Sri Lanka a major boost after they were beaten by England 2-0 in a three-Test series.
With Australia expected to be under the cosh in foreign territory, here are five players that will play a pivotal role in ensuring the baggy greens emerge victorious from their Test series.
1. David Warner
There is no doubt that Warner is currently in the form of his life. After an incredible showing at the IPL, where he scored nine half-centuries, Warner continued to impress during the ongoing ODI tri-series in the Caribbean, where he scored 165 runs at an average of 82.50, before a broken finger brought an end to his campaign.
Warner is expected to be out of action for anywhere between two to six weeks, depending on whether he requires surgery, and there are concerns that he may not be fully fit for the start of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele on July 26.
If the flamboyant left-hander is healthy, Australia will be thanking their lucky stars as Warner has been in great nick in the longest format of the game over the last 12 months. The 29-year-old has scored 1,275 runs, which includes three centuries and a double hundred, at an average of 60.71.
With that being said, Warner will definitely play an instrumental role during Australia’s Test series against Sri Lanka as the baggy greens will need him to set up a solid foundation and put Sri Lanka’s bowlers on the back foot with his aggressive style of batting right from the get-go.
2. Mitchell Starc
What can you say about Starc prior to his injury other than wow. He absolutely dominated the competition in the 2015 World Cup and did the same when donning the Test whites.
Starc featured in eight Test matches over the last year and claimed 31 wickets at an average of 27.45. Not bad considering that he was playing through ankle issues.
Following the first-ever day-night Test against New Zealand in November last year, Starc’s foot could finally take no more and he subsequently underwent surgery, which kept him out of action until the start of the ODI tri-series in the Caribbean.
The left-arm seamer doesn’t seem to have missed a beat as he has taken five wickets in two matches at an average of 16. But, while he is in and among the wickets in limited overs cricket, it is a whole different story whether he can mirror his performance at the Test level.
No doubt Starc is more than capable of adding to his 91 Test scalps, but whether he can trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen remains to be seen.
3. Mitchell Marsh
Marsh will definitely be Australia’s x-factor during the series as he has the ability to excel with both the bat and ball.
As of now, Marsh has been inconsistent with his performances and that is something Australia cannot afford from their go-to all-rounder. The Perth native has averaged a disappointing 14.58 with the bat, but a more respectable 29.12 with the ball. Despite this, Marsh will be under pressure to produce some magic on both ends, especially as Moises Henriques has been drafted into the squad.
With his spot in the side potentially under threat following the inclusion of Henriques, there is no doubt that the 24-year-old, who is brimming with potential, will be looking to cement his place in the team by having an absolute cracker of a series.
4. Nathan Lyon
Lyon has been Australia’s go-to spinner for a couple of years now and he will continue to hold that title in Sri Lanka as the pitch conditions there will suit his style of bowling.
In the 13 Test matches he has played over the past 12 months, Lyon has taken 49 wickets at an average of 27.30. While he has not been able to take any five-wicket hauls during that period, Lyon has the potential to end that drought in Sri Lanka due to the spin-friendly pitches.
During Australia’s visit to Sri Lanka in 2011, Lyon did not have as big of an impact as one would think as he only took eight wickets in three Tests at an average of 36.87. Let’s be honest, the former Adelaide groundsman can do better. As a result, he will definitely be aiming to turn his fortunes around and add to his tally of wickets in Sri Lanka during the upcoming tour.
5. Adam Voges
Voges may be a late bloomer when it comes to Test cricket, but don’t be fooled as there is still fire in the belly of the Perth native.
The 36-year-old has firmly cemented his place in Australia’s middle order after enjoying a stunning run of form since making his debut in June last year. In the year that has passed, Voges has scored 1,337 runs, which includes three hundreds and two double centuries, at an eye-popping average of 95.50.
While Australia will be hoping that Voges can continue to dominate with the bat, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the forthcoming series as it will not only be his first time playing Sri Lanka in Tests, but also his first visit to the Asian nation.