Final Fantasy XI
Wicketkeeper: Niroshan Dickwella
Batters: Usman Khawaja, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis
Allrounders: Dhananjaya de Silva, Ramesh Mendis
Bowlers: Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Lasith Embuldeniya, Nathan Lyon, Jeffrey Vandersay
C/VC: Lasith Embuldeniya, Nathan Lyon
Pick 1: We could build this up for the sake of building up, but here is what you need to know:
Usman Khawaja in Tests in 2022: 751 runs at an average of 125 runs per wicket, with 4 100s and 2 50s.
And these are not numbers accumulated on home decks, where players generally find it easier to excel; 496 of those runs came away from home against Pakistan in Pakistan.
Usman Khawaja in the 2022 Benaud-Qadir Trophy: 496 runs at 165 runs per wicket, with 2 100s and 2 50s.
So, pick Khawaja.
Picks 2-4: The Australian bowling trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Nathan Lyon. Not only do they bowl well, but they can also return some cheap runs with the bat down the order. Cummins and Lyon ended up as the leading wicket-takers in the series against Pakistan earlier this year, grabbing 12 wickets each, while Mitchell Starc was at the 5th spot with 8 wickets.
While Lyon and Starc’s records can be attributed to them bowling a lot of overs, Cummins’s was a direct result of his bowling quality, as indicated by him having a strike rate of 55 balls per wicket.
Best strike rates for AUS in the 2022 Benaud-Qadir Trophy: P Cummins (55), M Starc (77), N Lyon (109)
Picks 5-7: It is Galle. So you need spinners. A lot of spinners. Lasith Embuldeniya is only 25 years and 16 Tests old, but he is already the 4th leading wicket-taker at the Galle International stadium; there is no reason for you not to have him in your XI.
Top 5 Test wicket-takers at Galle: M Muralidaran (111), Rangana Herath (102), Dilruwan Perera (57), Lasith Embuldeniya (32), Chaminda Vaas (27)
Australia are likely to have at least 3 left-handers in their top 7, which brings the home team’s frontline off-spinner, Ramesh Mendis, into play. And guess what? Mendis can also bat – he averages 39 runs per wicket in FC cricket.
Ramesh Mendis in Test cricket at Galle: Matches – 3, Wickets – 20, Average – 18.5, 5W/10W – 2/1
The 26-year-old was exceptional vs West Indies last year at the same venue. In less than 10% of teams, he is one of the biggest differentials in the game.
We are not sure why Praveen Jayawickrama isn’t in the scheme of things for the home team in this game, but if he is picked, get him in as well. The 23-year-old has had an impressive start to his career and picked 7 wickets against India at Bengaluru last year. When you can succeed against India in India, Australia are child’s play.
What’s better than spinners on a spinning wicket? Spin bowling all-rounders. And Dhananjaya de Silva is the best spin bowling all-rounder in the XI this game. The 30-year-old is one of the 6 bowlers to bowl 60+ overs for Sri Lanka this year, and if the ODI series is anything to go by, is in form with the bat too.
Picks 8-10: Batting is going to be hit or miss; whoever you pick needs a lot of luck to deliver on a deck like Galle and against bowling attacks as good as these. We are, therefore, going in with Kusal Mendis for the form he showed in the ODI series, Dimuth Karunaratne for being one of the world’s most consistent batters, and Angelo Mathews for averaging 59 runs per wicket since 2020, in addition to Khawaja as already discussed.
Angelo Mathews in Tests since 2020: 1072 runs at 59 runs per wicket, with 4 100s and 3 50s
However, one of Mathews/Mendis could be traded out for Jayawickrama or Vandersay after the toss.
Of the 92 players who have played 10+ games since 2020, only 8 average 50+ runs per wicket and Karunaratne is one of them.
Dimuth Karunaratne in Tests since 2020: 1347 runs at 54 runs per wicket, with 5 100s and 5 50s
Wicketkeeper: Yet to be finalised
Batters: Usman Khawaja, Dimuth Karunaratne
All-rounders: Dhananjaya de Silva, Ramesh Mendis
Bowlers: Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Lasith Embuldeniya, Nathan Lyon
The final Team with C/VC picks will be given after the toss.
Predicted Playing XIs:
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne(c), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella(wk), Ramesh Mendis, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay
Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Alex Carey(wk), Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson