six players to watch when Sri Lanka face Australia

Unsurprisingly, Labuschagne has had an impressive start to his ODI career after making his debut in early 2020. He has a century and four fifties in his 15 innings with a healthy strike-rate of 91.51 – that latter figure important in a batting order that Aaron Finch wants to “push the boundaries” of the totals they can achieve. The area of Labuschagne’s game that hasn’t been used much in his short ODI career yet is his legspin – just 9.5 overs across four calls to the bowling crease. With Australia down a couple of allrounders in Mitchell Marsh (calf) and Cameron Green (workload management) at least for the start of the series, Labuschagne could be called on to help fill the fifth bowler requirement.

On Saturday night, Shanaka produced one of Sri Lanka’s great T20 innings. That he’s got a high ceiling as a finisher has been known for some time, but he hasn’t been particularly consistent, and his numbers reflect that (in ODIs, he averages 27.16 with a strike rate of 95.46). As he is now riding on his best-ever international knock however, he’s never had a better chance to push those figures up. He’ll likely be required to contribute a few overs through the middle period as well. Watch his fielding in the circle also – this is one area in which Shanaka has been consistently excellent.
Green won’t start the series but is highly likely to get a chance to add to his four ODI caps – probably when he’s ticked up to bowl during the Colombo leg. As in the Test side, he is viewed as a player who can help shape the one-day side for years to come. He has already shown form with the bat in Sri Lanka, plundering a century for Australia A against Sri Lanka A – his second List A hundred – and could easily occupy any position in the middle order. He also opened the bowling during the series against Pakistan earlier this year and is certainly capable of being a specialist quick should his workload allow it.
Shanaka might have hit the innings of the series, but with scores of 38, 39, and 26, Asalanka was Sri Lanka’s most-consistent batter in the T20Is. So far in his short career, he has arguably been even better in ODIs. Batting in the tricky No. 5 position, Asalanka averages 42 – his last six ODI innings yielding 52, 23, 71, 47, 77, and 72. One of his best qualities is that Asalanka consistently finds the boundary early in his innings, and rarely needs to catch up with his strike rate. His offbreaks can be handy too.

Maxwell, playing his first ODIs since late 2020, will continue in the No. 7 role that he has occupied with considerable success since the 2020 tour of England. In his last four innings in the position he has made 77, 1, 108 and 59 at a strike-rate of 125.64. However, Australia will be alert to the opportunity to promote him if the situation arises. Although now some time ago, the impact he can have was on display against India in November 2020 when he went in at No. 5 in two matches at the SCG and carved 108 runs off 48 balls. His bowling is also crucial to the balance of the side.

With 18 T20Is and an IPL behind him, Theekshana is something of a known entity in the shortest format. In ODIs, however, he’s only made four appearances. There is no reason why his skills won’t translate to the longer limited-overs format. As seen in numerous powerplays, Theekshana consistently bowls wicket-to-wicket, and batters are reluctant to try big shots against him. And because his line and length is so good, he generally keeps batters quiet, even when he fails to get them out. It’s a tiny sample size, but so far his economy rate in ODIs is 3.77.

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