AUSTRALIA is the red-hot favourite to maintain its excellent record against Sri Lanka in the three-Test series beginning Tuesday.
While the slow, low, Bunsen burners of Asia have proven a nemesis to Australian Test sides of late, its record in Sri Lanka tells a different tale.
Sri Lanka has beaten Australia just once in the last 13 Tests between the two nations on home soil, dating back to 1983.
In the past five years, Australia has won four of six home and away Tests against Sri Lanka, the other two finishing as a draw.
The visitors arrive on the subcontinent fresh from an ODI tri-series victory over South Africa and the West Indies. In Tests, they have not lost for nearly 12 months (v England, Nottingham), winning seven of nine engagements since.
It is an imposing recent record that leaves little surprise as to their number one ranking in the Test arena.
Further cementing Australia’s credentials is the return of David Warner and Mitchell Starc, two of the first names on the team sheet, from injury.
In contrast, Sri Lanka is smarting after a comprehensive 3-0 drubbing at the hands of England.
They have won just one match against Test playing opposition across all formats in 2016.
The home side’s casualty ward is also filling and alarmingly, is mostly occupied by first choice fast bowlers. Dhammika Prasad, Dushmantha Chameera and Shaminda Eranga will all be absent.
It should come as little surprise then that the visiting outfit is a $1.36 favourite to win the series.
It is a price unreasonable for small-to-medium sized punters to sit on for a three-Test series, albeit it does present opportunities for bigger players to trade on throughout (we will explain why below).
But where else can money be made throughout the series? Below is a breakdown of the best betting opportunities for the first Test and the series as a whole.
SRI LANKA V AUSTRALIA FIRST TEST, PALLEKELE, JUNE 26-30
DESPITE varied prices being offered across the corporates for the First Test, dabbling in the result market appears fraught with danger.
As much as $2.20 is available for Australia to win the first Test at Pallekele, a venue Sri Lanka has never tasted success at in this format.
Of the four Tests played here, the first three (played between 2010 and 2012) ended in heavily rain-affected draws, while Pakistan won the fourth in 2015.
The weather is once again expected to play a role on each day of the Test, with the forecast of significant rain seeing the draw available at a best price of $2.25.
This presents a tricky situation for punters betting pre-match. Weather aside, Australia is available at over its rated price of victory, but the likely impact of rain makes the result market a no-bet proposition for me.
Undoubtedly, the unpredictable weather presents a golden opportunity for traders to strut their stuff.
But for our First Test betting plan, lets instead look to player performance markets with the conditions in mind.
The 10-wicket performance of Steve O’Keefe in the warm-up fixture means he is likely to form one half of a two-pronged spin attack with Nathan Lyon.
But despite the hysteria that comes with playing in the subcontinent, pitches in some parts of Sri Lanka are historically as friendly to seam as spin - at least where Australian fast bowlers are concerned.
Coupled with the weather forecast, an excellent opportunity presents itself to back Australia’s two front-line fast bowlers to perform well in the first innings.
Both Mitchell Starc ($4) and Josh Hazlewood ($4.75) are easily backable for most first innings wickets for Australia. We’ll take them both.
For Sri Lanka, much rests on the shoulders of veteran spinner Rangana Herath.
The left-armer’s home and away statistics present a ‘chalk-and-cheese’ comparison and despite averaging a tickle over 17 with the ball on this ground, remains too short here at $2.36 for most first innings wickets.
Where a bet can be found is in the Sri Lankan batting performance markets.
Arguably Sri Lanka’s two best batsmen, Angelo Mathews (Test avg 48.70) and wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal (44.60) slot in at five and six in their order.
Their positions offer protection from the new ball and the likely opportunity to take on Australia’s two spinners, something they will relish.
Both men are at $4.50 (various bookies) in high bat markets for the first innings and we’ll get on board with both.
There’s little on offer for punters to work with in the Aussie batting market and we’ll leave that alone.
In all, the weather makes the match an ideal trading opportunity but I’m struggling to split Australia and the draw. We’ll stick with our player bets.
Sri Lanka v Australia first Test betting plan (1000 unit starting bank):
|Mitchell Starc most 1st inns wickets Australia||$4||3|
|Josh Hazlewood most 1st inns wickets Australia||$4.75||2|
|Angelo Mathews most 1st inns runs Sri Lanka||$4.50||2|
|Dinesh Chandimal most 1st inns runs Sri Lanka||$4.50||2|
SRI LANKA V AUSTRALIA TEST SERIES FUTURES BETTING
As previously mentioned, the series market has positioned Australia as red-hot $1.36 favourites, with the draw priced at $4.50 and Sri Lanka at $7.
Again, those playing the weather may be tempted to lay Australia before the first Test, pray for a draw and then back them before the second. Personally, I am quite tempted by the prospect of a drawn series.
The likelihood of a drawn first Test, plus Sri Lanka (and in particular, Herath’s) good record at second-Test venue Galle – they have won six of the last 10 Tests there since 2011 - leaves the three-Test series very open to a drawn result.
Two draw outcomes in the correct series score markets are possible: 1-1 ($5.50) and 0-0 ($19). Let’s have a unit on each.
If the weather allows sufficient play in the first Test, Australia should cruise to victory. From 1-0 up, they may steamroll their inexperienced opponents. One unit on Australia 3-0 ($7) is also necessary.
Our player betting takes on a similar look to the first Test betting. Only opening batsman Kaushal Silva (193) scored more runs than Dinesh Chandimal (172) in Sri Lanka’s recent Test series against England – and he played one more innings.
Chandimal then continued his fine form with four consecutive half centuries in the following ODI series. He appears best equipped to deal with Australia’s lively fast bowlers yet will receive protection from the new ball batting at number six. He averaged 49.25 in Tests on home soil.
He is an excellent proposition for most series runs at $5 and a two unit play.
While I won’t be backing any Australian batsmen – Adam Voges does look attractive at $7 if keen to bet – I will be throwing my support behind the leaders of the visitors’ bowling attack.
Mitchell Starc ($3.50) is a highly experienced cricketer in subcontinental conditions, while Josh Hazlewood ($5) recently defied the docile pitches of the West Indies to be Australia’s leading bowler in the ODI tri-series. Let’s also back them both.
Sri Lanka v Australia Test series futures betting plan:
|Series score 1-1||$5.50||1|
|Series score 0-0||$19||1|
|Series score Australia 3-0||$7||1|
|Dinesh Chandimal most runs Sri Lanka||$5||2|
|Mitchell Starc most wickets Australia||$3.50||2|
|Josh Hazlewood most wickets Australia||$5||2|
- Matthew Taylor. Twitter: @MattyA_Taylor