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View From Down Under: The Last Balls of Summer

Cricket is the sound of summer in Australia, but as the weather cools and other sports start to ramp up, the Australian international season comes to an end with a three-match Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka.

Of course, world cricket is a 12-month-a-year sport and with Australia's Test side already in India preparing for a significant series there, we are left with the cricketing version of 'The Replacements' for this one.

But these replacements, captained by Aaron Finch, are pretty handy, and are expected to dominate a Sri Lankan side coming off a series win in South Africa.

The hosts are short-priced favorites at $1.24 (-417) to win the first game at the MCG, with the visitors at $4.10 (+310).

Despite the 14-race winning streak of supermare Winx, Black Caviar remains Australia's most famous racehorse of modern times and the race named in her honor, the Group One Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, will be run over 1000 metres at Flemington on Saturday.

Black Caviar won this race on three occasions, all at a very short price, but this year's edition is wide open, with Spieth one of the favorites. This emerging star is of course named after one of the world's best golfers and at around $5.50 (+450) will have plenty of fans.

We mentioned the NBL in this column last week and this week sees the start of the playoffs, which feature two semifinals, played as best-of-three series.

The Adelaide 36ers finished with the season's best record and host the Illawarra Hawks as $1.48 (-208) favorites to win the opening match of their three-game series.

The Cairns Taipans – we not only have dangerous reptiles in Australia, we name professional sports teams after them – are $1.65 (-154) when they host the Perth Wildcats ($2.25/+125).

Sydney FC is still unbeaten in the A-League soccer after 19 rounds and faces crosstown rival Western Sydney Wanderers in the Sydney derby on Saturday. Sydney are $2.05 (+105) favorites in that match with the Wanderers at $3.40 (+240).

The National Rugby League season is only just over two weeks away from starting and the traditional lead-up is the Charity Shield, which is played between South Sydney Rabbitohs and the St George-Illawarra Dragons.

That will be played on Sunday and attract substantial attention, with the Rabbitohs as favorites.

Also ramping up is the AFL preseason with the first match taking place on Thursday between Essendon and Collingwood. What is interesting most fans and punters about that match is the return of seven Essendon players from 12-month drug bans.

Should the Bombers show they are back to their best after missing many of their best players last year, then they will shorten significantly for the AFL premiership.

They are $1.42 (-238) favorites with an undermanned Collingwood outfit at $2.90 (+190).

Sticking with AFL but the women’s variety and Round 3 of the competition is highlighted by two of the title favorites, Adelaide and Carlton, meeting on Sunday.

It will be fascinating to see if the massive interest the women's competition has drawn in the first two weeks continues now the AFL men's preseason is in full swing.

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