A SHOCK first Test victory by Sri Lanka has blown its series against Australia wide open.
It has also created a number of juicy angles for punters.
A brilliant second innings 176 by Kusal Mendis, backed up by superb bowling from left arm spinners Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan, secured a 106-run victory for the hosts.
The result has left Australia with plenty of soul searching to do and things won’t get any easier in the second Test at Galle, traditionally a spinners’ haven.
Below is our full preview and best bets for the second Test, plus bonus picks for England’s third Test against Pakistan.
SRI LANKA V AUSTRALIA SECOND TEST
Dates: 4-8 August 2016
Venue: Galle International Stadium, Galle, Sri Lanka
Weather: Cloudy days and intermittent showers forecast for the entire match, top temperatures of 30-31°C each day.
Victory in the first Test provided Sri Lanka with just its second win in any format over Test-playing opposition this year.
In contrast, it was Australia’s first Test match loss under Steve Smith since he took over the captaincy full-time.
Despite the humbling loss, Australia remains a $2 favourite for the second Test, with the draw at $3.20 and Sri Lanka at $4.
With conditions at Galle almost certain to be even more favourable to spin than at Pallekele, the touring batsmen are expected to endure another torrid time in the match.
Australia has won just one of it’s last 15 Tests in Asia and cannot be supported with confidence.
Similarly, the draw appears an unlikely proposition. Despite multiple lengthy rain delays in Pallekele, 40 wickets still fell as only one innings of substance was compiled in the match.
In trickier batting conditions, a ‘result’ appears an even greater certainty. I expect traders to fall over themselves laying the draw throughout the contest.
But in terms of our betting plan, we’ll have a small bet on Sri Lanka to win the match.
I have little confidence in their batting – after all, they were skittled for 117 in 34.2 overs on day one, before making 353 in the second innings on the back of Mendis’ 176 – but their four-pronged spin attack may simply overwhelm Australia.
Of those four tweakers, the bulk of the damage was done by veteran Herath (9/103 for the match) and debutant Sandakan (7/107).
At second Test venue Galle, Herath has taken 78 wickets in 14 career outings. The bulk of those have come since 2012, collecting 60 wickets in nine Tests at 22.71 runs apiece.
The top first innings bowler market appears down to those two (Herath $2.50, Sandakan $4) and with a slight leaning to the veteran, we’ll back them both.
While no Australian reached triple figures in the Test, the most confident player against the spin was captain Steve Smith.
The world’s top-ranked batsman appeared relatively comfortable picking off the bowling in Pallekele and if not for a wild brain snap in the first innings, would have likely top scored in both.
He is $4 for top first innings bat and a must-have here (equal-favourite is David Warner, who returned from injury with 0 and 1 in the first Test).
Despite an eventually dominant win, the fragility of Sri Lanka’s top order was again exposed by the decision to send out different opening combinations in the two innings. Neither worked.
After dusting off the Test cobwebs in the first innings at Pallekele, Mitchell Starc ($3.75) took four wickets in the second and is worth a small play here with the expectation he will roll through Sri Lanka’s top and tail.
|Sri Lanka - result||$4||1|
|Rangana Herath - Sri Lanka most 1st innings wickets||$2.50||4|
|Lakshan Sandakan - Sri Lanka most 1st innings wickets||$4||2|
|Mitchell Starc - Australia most 1st innings wickets||$3.75||1|
|Steve Smith - Australia most 1st innings runs||$4||1|
ENGLAND V PAKISTAN THIRD TEST
Dates: 3-7 August 2016
Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham, England
Weather: Minor chance of light rain on days 1-3 must mostly sunny weather forecast, top temperatures around 20-22°C each day.
Pakistan came crashing back to earth at Old Trafford, falling to a 330-run defeat in the second Test against England after surprising the hosts in the series opener at Lords.
England’s monumental victory was built on the back of an exceptional first innings 254 from Joe Root, ably supported by a century from captain Alastair Cook.
But it is England’s bowlers who are expected to come to the fore at Edgbaston, a venue the home side has lost at just once in Test cricket since 2002.
Seven wins from 11 Test outings at the venue in that time have been built on the back of dominant performances from the home side’s fast bowlers.
In Tests at Edgbaston, James Anderson and Stuart Broad average 24.06 and 22.29 runs per wicket respectively, significantly less than career marks of 28.23, and 28.42.
After missing the first Test, Anderson’s return strengthened England’s attack, as did the return of lively all-rounder Ben Stokes.
However another injury has seen Stokes ruled out of the Test, paving the way for Steven Finn to return to the XI. His Test bowling average of 29.40 is slashed to 20.92 at Edgbaston.
While Pakistan’s fast bowlers are expected to enjoy some assistance, their reliance on leg-spinner Yasir Shah was exposed in the second Test.
After a 10-wicket haul at Lords, Shah took just one wicket at Old Trafford. Pakistan managed just nine for the match in 182 overs in the field.
All signs point to a comprehensive England victory and with clear weather predicted, it seems unlikely any external factors will halt their charge.
The form of Cook and Root with the bat, plus the likely barrage from the four-pronged pace attack – the only quick we haven’t mentioned, Chris Woakes, is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 18 in two matches – should simply overwhelm Pakistan.
I have England rated much shorter than the $1.57 on offer and we’ll have a big bet there.
Unfortunately that’s where the betting stops for me here. In both batting and bowling markets, there appears little to split England’s main players mentioned above.