Be it at home or away, Australia have always been the dominant force in Test contests against Sri Lanka. This explains the fact that the Asian nation have only two Test wins, and one series win against the Aussies, the latter coming way back in 1999. But, following the victory at Pallekele things have changed to an extent. Sri Lanka will go into the Galle Test believing in themselves, and perhaps may even hold the slight upper hand considering the fact that they came from behind to achieve the triumph at Pallekele. It is also true that the current Aussie squad has its own sets of weaknesses. All these factors give Sri Lanka their best chance of upsetting the Aussies.
Like in the first Test, the performance of veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath will be central to Sri Lanka's cause. He was absolutely spot on at Pallekele, and Australia did not have answers to the questions he posed. At Galle, he could prove to be even more threatening for the surface assists spin as the game progresses. Also, Galle is a happy hunting ground for Herath, where he has enjoyed tremendous success over the years. In his last match at the venue, he claimed ten wickets against West Indies. Before that he claimed seven wickets in the second innings against India last year. How Australian batsmen tackle Herath could well decide the contest.
Herath was obviously brilliant at Pallekele but the contribution of debutant Lakshan Sandakan cannot be ignored. For someone playing his first game, Sandakan was highly impressive showing good control, and claiming some key wickets as well. Kusal Mendis' knock was sensational, particularly when one considers that only one other batsman in the Test crossed fifty. He will be keen to build on the newfound confidence. At the same time, Sri Lanka would be rooting for big efforts from the experienced duo of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. Unfortunately with both Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal injured, Sri Lanka might have to go in with a fresh face in the pace bowling department.
As for Australia, they will be extremely disappointed with the fact that they lost the Pallekele Test after having dismissed Sri Lanka for a paltry 117 in the first innings. Their batting effort against spin was a big letdown, and it is this aspect of theirs which will be under the scanner the most. Apart from skipper Smith no one really looked the part at Pallekele. The series will be a test for David Warner having registered low scores in both the innings of the opening Test. He had failed in the series against India as well a few years back, so Warner will have a point to prove without doubt. The likes of Joe Burns, Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh will also be under pressure.
In the bowling department, Australia will be hoping that Nathan Lyon can do a Herath for them. While Lyon has been picking up wickets, he didn't really run through the side in either innings. Considering Sri Lanka's batting inexperience and Lyon's success in the country previously, the Aussie off-spinner will be expected to do better at Galle. The visitors have been dealt with a blow, with Steve O'Keefe being ruled out due to injury. O'Keefe did make a impression at Pallekele, so his loss is a definite advantage for Sri Lanka. The pacers in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood will be expected to put their hands up.
--By A Cricket Analyst