Australia seek to regain winning feeling
Wednesday, November 3, Melbourne
Start time 14.20 local (03.20 GMT)
The Big Picture
Sri Lanka's victory in the Twenty20 has given Australia plenty to think about. They haven't won an international match since the Lord's Test against Pakistan in July and, while they will claim their focus is on winning this series, as much as anything that is for the momentum that it would give their Ashes campaign. Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz and an out-of-form and under-pressure Michael Hussey are back in the squad, which features the majority of the men likely to take the field in the Gabba Test, although Ponting and Hauritz won't play in this one-day series opener.
"If you look at it that way, since July, it looks like a long time," Ponting said of the losing streak. "It's only a few games, really. There's no sugar-coating anything, we know we've got some work to do. It's really important that we do start getting that winning feeling back around the group again. There's no doubt that it's always a different feeling around the change rooms when you are winning games of cricket. We have to start that off pretty soon, and hopefully that's tomorrow."
Sri Lanka have never won a series in Australia and if they can carry their Twenty20 form in to the ODI arena, this could be their best chance yet of breaking that record. They are also planning ahead to the World Cup, which will partly be held in their own country starting next February. Last time they co-hosted the World Cup they emerged as the champions, and they deserve to be among the favourites in 2011. Following this tour they head back to Sri Lanka for a Test series against West Indies, so they too are hoping to build momentum heading in to a home series.
The other question is whether anybody will turn up to the match. Many Victorians have already taken an extra long weekend due to Tuesday's public holiday for the iconic Melbourne Cup horse race, and asking the public to back up immediately and attend another day of elite sport is ambitious.
Form guide(most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWLWL
Watch out for...On Sunday, Peter Siddle played his first international match since January. It was a promising comeback for Siddle, who had sat out for nearly nine months due to stress fractures in his back. His recovery was geared towards making him available for the Ashes but to break back in to the side he needs to perform at every opportunity. If he plays on Wednesday, it will be his first one-day international at his home ground, the MCG.
Thisara Perera bowled well in the Twenty20 in Perth, where his 2 for 22 from four overs helped restrict Australia. But the hosts will be equally concerned about his batting, even though he faced only four balls. Perera came out towards the end of the chase and his scorebook read 1, 6, 4, 6. He monstered Steven Smith over long-on twice to confirm the victory, and if he gets the chance to spend five overs at the crease, he could do some serious damage.
Ponting will be in Launceston on Wednesday for the funeral of his grandmother, so Michael Clarke will remain in charge after leading Australia to defeat in Sunday's Twenty20 at the WACA. On Tuesday, Nathan Hauritz had not yet joined the squad following his Sheffield Shield performance over the past couple of days, so the Tasmanian spinner Xavier Doherty is in line to make his international debut. Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson are back after missing the T20, while there are plenty of bowling options, with Johnson, Clint McKay, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and John Hastings all in the squad. Brad Haddin will play his first ODI since March and could be back near the top of the order.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Brad Haddin (wk), 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 John Hastings, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Peter Siddle.
Kumar Sangakkara confirmed that Sri Lanka will open with Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan, and that Muttiah Muralitharan would take his place in the side for his first ODI since June. On an MCG pitch that could be affected by rain, that might make it difficult for Suraj Randiv to squeeze in as a second spinner, despite being the Man of the Match in Sunday's Twenty20 triumph.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (capt, wk), 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Silva, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekera, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Pitch and conditionsAustralia's training session on Tuesday was interrupted by rain and isolated showers are forecast for Wednesday. The drop-in pitches at the MCG can be a little on the slow side, so don't expect the pace and bounce seen at the WACA on Sunday.
Stats and trivia
- Michael Clarke has captained Australia 16 times in ODIs and has made two centuries in those games; in his remaining 163 one-day internationals he has managed only three hundreds
- This is a Sri Lankan side with plenty of experience: Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have each played more than 30 ODIs in Australia
- The MCG is Sri Lanka's best venue in Australia in ODIs against the hosts (of grounds where they have played more than once), with four wins from 11 meetings
Quotes"If we start winning games of cricket again, the whole atmosphere and attitude around the team changes. We'll worry about the Ashes when that comes."
"A player of Ricky's calibre not being in the side is a huge blow. He's one of the best batsmen of the last two decades."
Kumar Sangakkara hopes the opposing captain's absence will help Sri Lanka.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.