Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka got off to a blistering start thanks to the opening pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch – check out the full match score.
Australian openers David Warner and Aaron Finch smashed half-centuries in an impressive 10-wicket win against Sri Lanka in the first T20 international in Colombo on Tuesday.
The visitors eased to 134-0 in 14 overs, chasing just 129 for victory, after a penetrative Josh Hazlewood spell restricted the hosts to 128 all out in 19.3 overs.
Australia, the reigning champions, are warming up for the 2022 T20 World Cup to be held on home soil later this year.
Earlier, Australia skipper Finch won the toss and asked Sri Lanka to bat first in rain-hit Colombo.
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Warner hit nine fours in his unbeaten 44-ball 70 while Finch finished with a 40-ball 61 not out with four fours and four sixes.
Warner and Finch hammered 59 runs in the first six overs and attacked key Sri Lankan bowlers Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, who bowled six wicketless overs for 52 runs between them.
Dushmantha Chameera leaked 48 runs in his four overs for the hosts. Earlier, Josh Hazlewood took three wickets in the 14th over and triggered a middle-order batting collapse in the first of three T20Is.
The in-form pacer finished with 4-16 in his four overs and took the wickets of Danushka Gunathilaka (26), Kusal Mendis (1), Bhanuka Rajapaksa (0) and captain Dasun Shanaka (0).
“The wicket was a little bit slow but I guess you can use that to your advantage,” Hazlewood said.
“The back of a length was crucial. I’ve been working hard on my T20 cricket, playing a lot, feeling confident and we saw that tonight.” Hazlewood was well supported by his new-ball partner Mitchell Starc who removed opener Pathum Nissanka for 36 off 31 balls before cleaning up the hosts’ lower order to finish with 3-26 in his four tight overs.
Sri Lanka’s top three batters gave the hosts a steady start and took the team to 100 for two in the first 12 overs.
None of the top three — Nissanka, Gunathilaka and Charith Asalanka — were able to stick around in the closing overs.
Starc dismissed Hasaranga, who tried to lead a lower-order fightback with a 15-ball 17, as well as Chameera (1).
The hosts also lost Asalanka and Chamika Karunaratne to run outs and were bowled out three balls short of their allotted 20 overs.
Australia are also playing five one-day internationals and two Test matches during the Sri Lanka tour, which ends July 12.
“I think with the ball, when Josh Hazlewood is bowling such consistent lengths, we know as batters how hard it is to face that,” Finch said.
“We managed to control the middle overs by getting wickets.”
MARNUS POISED FOR BIG ON-FIELD ROLE IN SRI LANKA
Test cricket’s action man Marnus Labuschagne is set to have another crucial role to play in Sri Lanka this month with a surprise elevation as Australia’s third spinner.
Labuschagne bowled just four overs across the final two Tests in Pakistan earlier this year, and although Australia ended up securing a famous victory on the last day of the series, former Test great Mark Waugh was adamant the part-time leg-spinner was under-utilised.
However, Labuschagne’s big break as a Test match bowler is looming large.
With Australia bracing for pitches in Galle far more treacherous than the ones they conquered in Pakistan, selectors may be forced to at least consider the rare selection of a three-pronged specialist spin attack.
It’s not out of the question that spinner Ashton Agar could be called into a bowling arsenal with Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson – because Australia picked three spinners in Bangladesh in 2017 – but there are fears such a move would be too destabilising to team balance.
It’s why No. 1 spinner Lyon believes the world’s No. 1 batsman Labuschagne is poised to step up as the all-round x-factor who can give Australia the best of both worlds in Sri Lanka.
“It’s a good question (could Australia play three spinners) and it’s going to be up for debate,” Lyon told News Corp.
“Do I think it could work? Yeah, it could work. Do I think it’s in the right balance of our team? I’m still asking questions of that.
“And the only reason I say that is … which quick do you drop?
“If you look at the balance of the team that performed extremely well in Pakistan, that was a tough tour. We hadn’t won a subcontinent tour since my debut. (Three spinners) could potentially work but it really has to go on the balance of the team, and I think runs is extremely important over there.
“I think Marnus is showing with his bowling over in the UK (in county cricket) that he’s bowling well enough to get Ben Stokes stumped bowling leg-spin.
“If you look at the balance with Marnus and his skill set, you potentially have three spinners there already.”
Labuschagne bowled 27 overs in the first Test in Pakistan but once fellow leggie Swepson was brought in for the second Test, he was barely used again for the remainder of the tour, despite long periods where Australia were desperate for wickets on tough slow and dry pitches.
But Lyon said the minimal use of Labuschagne was purely about the unexpected conditions that greeted them in Pakistan rather than a lack of confidence in the leg-spinner as a frontline bowler.
“That was probably purely the reverse swing factor – because it took me by surprise as well,” Lyon said.
“The reverse swing factor compared to spin (was significant). I thought it was going to be a bit more spin friendly than what it was. And I was wrong. But I think (in Sri Lanka) he may be a decent option.”
STARC v HAZLEWOOD
Australia’s decision to rank Josh Hazlewood higher on the contract list than Mitchell Starc is set to face immediate scrutiny when the pecking order that matters most is unveiled in Sri Lanka.
As happened in Pakistan on the most recent tour, it’s expected Australia will go with Starc and Pat Cummins as their only two specialist fast bowlers in Sri Lanka when the two Test matches roll around on a spinning pitch in Galle.
When you’re talking about two champion all-format fast bowlers like Starc and Hazlewood it’s always going to be a tight call who to reward with the bigger contract.
But even though the difference in dollars is negligible when both are earning around $1.5 million, it was still surprising to see the reigning Allan Border medallist reportedly down at No. 4 on the contract list with Hazlewood at 3.
Selectors have already shown their hand that they prefer Starc over Hazlewood in the subcontinent, and the two overseas Test tours in this contract period are to Sri Lanka and India next year.
Not to mention the fact Starc is coming off one of his best ever years, crowned the game’s best player and playing a crucial role in spearheading the Australian attack to Ashes victory in the first three Tests.
Perhaps selectors have prioritised the Twenty20 World Cup in this year’s calculations, with Hazlewood the most improved white ball bowler in world cricket and a star of last year’s historic title win … although Starc does have some serious pedigree in the big short format tournaments himself, particularly on home soil.
Anything can happen on a Test tour and of course it’s still possible Hazlewood fights his way back to play Tests in Sri Lanka.
But teammate Nathan Lyon says ultimate team man Hazlewood is not kicking stones about his unfamiliar place on the outer of the XI.
“Josh is brilliant. He’s world class. He’s unbelievable to have around the team,” Lyon said.
“No doubt he was disappointed he wasn’t playing (in Pakistan), but he was fine. He’s well and truly an unbelievable leader in our side.”
PRESSURE ON FINCH, SMITH, WADE IN T20 MUSICAL CHAIRS
Australia won’t be making mass changes to its Twenty20 World Cup squad and is rightly determined to give the 15 men who lifted the trophy under a year ago in the UAE the chance to defend it on home soil.
But the one challenger who cannot be ignored is breakthrough IPL finisher Tim David, and because of that, the heat is on several Australian stars.
If selectors are to try and shoehorn the power-hitting phenomenon described as Australia’s answer to Kieron Pollard into their squad, captain Aaron Finch, Steve Smith and Matthew Wade shape as the men most under the pump.
David is not in Sri Lanka, but the selection battle begins when Australia takes on Sri Lanka in the opening T20 on Tuesday.
Australian coach Andrew McDonald has all-but declared Finch’s place is under no threat whatsoever, but white ball great Shane Watson has expressed major concerns about the opener’s form and says captaincy alone cannot guarantee his selection.
Smith and Wade are already under pressure to hold their place in the XI from rising star Josh Inglis, who was in last year’s World Cup squad as an extra, but has now build a strong case to break into the starting side.
Inglis has the ability to play as a wicketkeeper which puts the squeeze on Wade, although the Tasmanian veteran’s stocks have risen again on the back of pocketing an IPL title.
Smith – who doesn’t bring the power hitting of the modern T20 middle-order man – was put under the microscope last World Cup as well, but Australia has sworn by a strategy which places enormous importance on Smith as a player who can anchor the batting if there’s a top order collapse.
RETURN OF THE MAC
Andrew McDonald has been forced to delay his arrival in Sri Lanka due to a bout of Covid-19, but his first tour as the official Australian coach presents a massive opportunity.
Already with the historic first win in Pakistan in 22 years under his belt when he was interim, claiming back-to-back scalps in the subcontinent by toppling Sri Lanka would give him a flying start as national coach.
It would take pressure off the task of defending the World Cup crown on home soil – no small feat given the fickle nature of T20 cricket and the quality of the international stars who play it.
McDonald’s team then starts clear favourites for the two home Test series against West Indies and South Africa, before the biggest subcontinental challenge of them all – India in India.
Originally published as Australia v Sri Lanka 2022: Openers unbeaten in 10-wicket win