Lanka seek ODI series win in Australia
AWAIT LIVE CRICKET SCORE OF 4TH ODI AT SCG: RECAP GABBA DRAMA
Just as the Test series between these two teams was decided with one match still to play, the one-day battle could be done and dusted before the teams fly to Hobart for the fifth and final game.
Through outstanding swing bowling over the past two matches in Adelaide and Brisbane, Sri Lanka have positioned themselves so that in Sydney on Sunday they can become the first team ever to secure two bilateral one-day series triumphs against Australia in Australia.
South Africa have done it once, in 2008-09. So have Pakistan, in the winter of 2002. Sri Lanka did it with a 2-1 success in early 2010-11. But no team has done it twice - yet.
Sri Lanka were disappointing in the Tests, but a one-day series win would at least allow them to fly home with some pride restored.
At the very least they have shown that their pace attack, pilloried during the Tests, is a much more dangerous proposition in the one-day format.
The presence of Lasith Malinga helps, of course, but in Brisbane on Friday it was Nuwan Kulasekara, who was here for the Test series, who destroyed Australia with the kind of prodigious swing most bowlers could only achieve with a half-taped tennis ball.
It was brilliant stuff, and Australia's batsmen will need to show more of a willingness to fight through such swing if it is again present in Sydney, although the conditions are unlikely to be as helpfully humid as in Brisbane.
For Australia, this match is as much about regaining pride as it is about keeping the series alive.
If their 170 in Adelaide looked bad, their 74 all out at the Gabba was as embarrassing as it gets in one-day cricket.
Only the final batting pair, Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty, reached double figures. It was only due to their 34-run stand that Australia avoided their all-time lowest ODI total.
The match was nearly over by 5pm, the time that should have been the change of innings. Those numbers cannot be avoided. Nor can they be repeated.
For most of Australia's brief innings on Friday, it looked like Michael Clarke was going to be the top scorer with 9. He was one of several men beaten by hooping inswing and as the captain, it is up to him to ensure Australia find a way to combat Sri Lanka's bowlers on Sunday.
Such has been his consistency lately that not since the opening two Tests of the 2010-11 Ashes has Clarke made two consecutive single-figure scores for Australia. Now is not the time to change that.
Nuwan Kulasekara's 5 for 22 was the best analysis ever achieved by a Sri Lankan in an ODI in Australia and it was a performance built on controlling and directing his inswing, and in many cases swinging it late. The conditions in Sydney won't be quite as helpful, but after Friday's performance Australia's batsmen will be wary of him all the same.
Jackson Bird has been added to Australia's squad for this match as cover, just as Ben Cutting was for the Brisbane game.
But it's not Australia's bowling that has been the problem, and Bird may find himself running the drinks if all the other fast men are fit.
Glenn Maxwell will come into contention again after being left out due to the conditions at the Gabba, and might be jostling with Moises Henriques for the No.7 position.
Ajantha Mendis should be reinstated at the SCG after Sri Lanka's selectors shrewdly judged the Gabba as a venue much friendlier to swing and seam.
Shaminda Eranga would be the most likely man to miss out, having replaced Mendis for the Brisbane game.
The fitness of Dinesh Chandimal remains a query but with Kushal Perera performing impressively over the past two games, there is no need for Sri Lanka to rush Chandimal back if he is not quite ready.
Both teams would be pleased the Sydney match was scheduled for Sunday instead of Friday, because while they were competing in Brisbane, the temperature in Sydney reached an all-time record of 45.8C. The forecast for Sunday is a much more pleasant 25C, with a shower or two possible.
Australia: Phillip Hughes, David Warner, Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, David Hussey, Matthew Wade (wk), Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty.
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Kushal Perera (wk), Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis.
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