Australia’s domination job of Sri Lanka is complete, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered ahead of the World Cup and Ashes after a tough summer. Here are all the big talking points from the match.
This series doesn’t help pick the Ashes squad
Let’s not kid ourselves. These Sri Lankan results aren’t going to pick the Test team for our next series, the Ashes.
What it is going to do is probably pick a few spots on the plane for the A tour to England in the lead-up to the Ashes.
Set to be played concurrently with the World Cup and end with a match against the Australian side, the A team will have chances to push for spots in the eventual Ashes squad in conditions which are of use for selections and form against high-quality opposition.
In truth, the selectors will have just about forgotten about this series by the time the Ashes do roll around, with David Warner and Steve Smith also set to make their returns to the team.
What we do know is that if Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne are picked to go to England on the A tour, they are going to need a truckload of runs to force their way into the eventual squad.
However, Kurtis Patterson can cancel his off-season plans, because he will undoubtedly be travelling to England along with Joe Burns, while Travis Head will be in the World Cup squad.
The interesting one is Matt Renshaw, who is still chasing a county contract. One way or another, he needs to be in England if he is to make the Ashes squad, but getting game time on the A tour might be a problem for him.
Jhye Richardson is another who will probably be in the World Cup squad, while the quicks will all play limited overs cricket, and Jhye Richardson will also get to England one way or another.
You’d also have to expect Will Pucovski and a host of other hopefuls to spend the winter in England, giving plenty of time for selectors to try and answer questions about their eventual squad.
Sri Lanka need to be better
No one wants to see one-sided cricket. While Australia needed the confidence-building scores, wickets and match results, there is no getting around the fact Sri Lanka were extremely poor.
The tourists, both in Brisbane and here in Sydney, struggled big time, but with some of the names in their squad, they shouldn’t have been nearly as bad as they were.
Sure, losing their quicks hurt in Canberra and the retirement of Rangana Herath didn’t help, but when Kusal Mendus and Dimuth Karunaratne have scored stacks of runs in the last 12 months and they also have the experience of Dinesh Chandimal (who had an extremely poor series) to draw on, the way they were beaten was bad.
A 2-0 series result was expected, but not in this manner, and Sri Lanka must be better moving forward as the divide seemingly continues to grow between the top and bottom teams in world cricket, despite the promising performances of upcoming nations like Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ireland.
Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc needed these results for confidence if nothing else
While you can’t let one Test and their scores against a minnow overlook an entire summer, the ten-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc and second innings century from Usman Khawaja were both enormous in terms of confidence for two players who are senior members of the team, but struggled to stand up throughout the summer.
If Australia are to be successful during what is going to be an extremely busy winter of cricket, they need Khawaja and Starc firing on all cylinders.
As the old saying goes, you can only play what’s in front of you, and from Starc’s point of view especially, it was the first time in quite a significant amount of time he was able to bowl accurately and consistently wth real pace, fire and bounce. This was especially impressive on a pretty flat pitch which was good to bat on.
Khawaja’s second-innings century in the grand scheme of things probably has less going for it, given the Sri Lankan attack were second string and inconsistent, but he still had to get through some tough times as wickets fell around him at the start of the innings.
Given what he has been through off the field, this should just remind him that he can compete at the top level, and set him up for a big winter at number three.
Marcus Harris might be finished at Test level… For now
This was a crucial series for besieged opening batsman Marcus Harris. The Victorian has had the entire summer to score runs and make the opening spot his own, but he has struggled to do so.
While no one will question that he looks the part in the Baggy Green, there will be plenty of arguments raised as to whether his spot is a deserved one moving forward.
He finishes the summer with a whole bunch of starts, some failures (including twin failures in this final Test of the summer), but no big score.
It’s the no big score part, as well as the method of his dismissals which is a cause of concern heading to England.
Too often, Harris has been caught slashing at balls outside the off stump which, early in his innings, he needs to leave.
While a compact technique gets him going, the problems are going to be profound in England where the decision to leave or play becomes tougher with a swinging Duke ball and English attack who are always on the money.
His lack of runs at the end of the summer have come at an awful time, with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both available for selection, and Joe Burns hitting a blistering 170.
It’s going to take a stack of runs in the remaining Sheffield Shield games for him to make a case for selection moving forward.
Test cricket will be back in Canberra
If there is a location which should have hosted Test cricket before now, it’s Canberra.
Manuka Oval has had redevelopments, granted, and the pitch might need some work moving forward, but it’s a lovely venue for cricket where Australia know they aren’t going to draw huge crowds at bigger stadiums in other locations.
Day 2 and 3 in particular were well supported in Canberra, and a big crowd at a small stadium is better than trying to get by with a big stadium one fifth full.
When teams like Sri Lanka, the West Indies, Bangladesh or, into the future, Afghanistan tour, Manuka Oval should be the prime location used for those matches. It’s size and the obvious enjoyment of the people in Canberra, as well as the want to go to the cricket can’t be taken for granted.
If you look at crowds in Hobart, they are small, and while poor opposition has been used as an excuse, Canberra locals didn’t let that become a problem for them this week.