Almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Sri Lanka in Adelaide. And the one thing that went right for them, turned out badly.
Lasith Malinga called correctly at the toss and put Australia in. Twenty overs later they had 233 against them. The chase was equally, if not more, one-sided as Sri Lanka limped to 9 for 99 to suffer their heaviest runs defeat in T20Is by a considerable margin.
On a short tour they have just 48 hours to pick themselves up before the second match in Brisbane on Wednesday if they are to take the series to a decider in Melbourne – a ground where they have a 2-0 record over Australia in T20Is.
Bowling first in T20Is does not always come down to conditions if it is genuinely the preferred way of a team going about their game plan, but there seemed very little in favour of the decision on Sunday. It was a mid-afternoon game, so no early-morning movement, a mild, clear day and a pristine-looking surface.
It also went against Sri Lanka’s route of recent success in Pakistan where they defended totals through the T20I series to win 3-0 – on two occasions having won the toss and batted first.
The Sri Lankans cited uncertainty around how the pitch would play as the reason for putting Australia in, but two years ago they played at the ground and did the same thing. Malinga was part of that team as was Kusal Mendis and Dasun Shanaka. That day Aaron Finch and Michael Klinger started with a 79-run opening stand and the eventual margin was a 41-run defeat, albeit in a series they had already won.
“It was a short stay for us in Adelaide, so we didn’t know what sort of wicket it would be and we knew it wouldn’t be bad for us to bat second,” batsman Bhanuka Rajapaksa, said. “So we didn’t want to take a chance, and that was a collective decision of the players and we decided to bowl first and look at how the bowlers would go. But it was clinical to us.”
“We had some plans to keep them under a good score but things didn’t come off for us as well as we planned during the tour. But we don’t want to lose our hope and we don’t want to put our heads down.”
It was a surprise to see allrounder Isuru Udana left out of the XI. He took 3 for 11 and 2 for 38 in the two matches he played against Pakistan and his left-arm angle would have provided some variety while he also has a batting strike-rate of 131.78. After the treatment handed out to Kasun Rajitha, who conceded the most runs in a T20I, there would appear a good chance of a change for Brisbane.
However, it won’t matter what type of bowling attack Sri Lanka put out if they are unable to challenge Australia’s bowlers.
“Looking at Warner, Finch and Maxwell and how they batted, I think there’s a lot to learn,” Rajapaksa said. “Especially the way they ran between wickets, and I’m sure we got a lot to learn a lot about that. In Australia it’s about hitting the gaps and getting the doubles. There’s a lot of runs on the boundaries.
“We’d like to have another couple of days to practice on, but we’ve got so much travelling as well so we need to adapt really soon. So we’re hoping to get ourselves back together and deliver better.”