Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney January 2, 2013

Series decided, but emotional finale awaits


Match facts

January 3-7, SCG
Start time 1030 (2330 GMT)

Big Picture

The series is decided and the best Sri Lanka can hope for now is a competitive showing in the final Test in Sydney. They will have to do so without Kumar Sangakkara, who is comfortably Sri Lanka's best batsman of all time away from home. They will also have to do so without Chanaka Welegedara, who has been their leading wicket taker in this series. They may also need to do so without their first-choice gloveman Prasanna Jayawardene, who remains in doubt due to a hairline fracture of his thumb. And they'll probably have to do it without Nuwan Kulasekara, who missed the Melbourne Test with a rib injury. The odds are long, but Sri Lanka can take some comfort from the fact that dead rubbers such as this can throw up surprising results.

On paper, it is difficult to see Sri Lanka posing much of a threat, despite the fact that Australia have shortened their batting line-up by naming Matthew Wade at No.6 and Mitchell Johnson at No.7. Against a strong bowling attack it would be a far riskier move, but against a Sri Lankan bowling outfit missing Welegedara and Kulasekara it may be of little consequence. It also means Australia have four fast men to rotate and keep fresh during Sri Lanka's innings, along with the offspinner Nathan Lyon. By leaving out the uncapped allrounder Glenn Maxwell, the Australians have also ignored the chance to assess how Maxwell would handle the challenge of bowling in Test cricket, ahead of the tour of India in February-March.

But despite the fact the series has been decided already, there will be plenty of emotion at the SCG over the next five days. Both teams will wear black armbands in honour of the late Tony Greig, who was not only a fixture of Australian cricket commentary for 33 years but was also a much-loved figure in Sri Lanka. And the Australians will also farewell Michael Hussey, who surprisingly announced his retirement after the Melbourne Test. Hussey, the leader of Australia's team song, would love to have one last reason to sing it at the SCG.

Form guide

(Most recent first)
Australia WWLDD
Sri Lanka LLLWD

In the spotlight

Ricky Ponting was farewelled with defeat at the WACA last month; Michael Hussey has a much better chance of ending his Test career on a high. Hussey will leave a gaping hole in the middle order over the next year and Australia's fans will enjoy seeing him in the baggy green one last time over the coming days. Hussey enters the Test with 19 Test centuries to his name and given the kind of form he has displayed this summer, it would be a brave person to bet against him reaching No.20 before he bows out. Only 11 Australians have reached that milestone.

Dinesh Chandimal is a batsman of immense talent whose opportunities at Test level have been limited by the settled nature of Sri Lanka's middle order. Now he has a chance to make his mark. Chandimal has played four Tests and scored three half-centuries and if he can perform impressively at the SCG he may force a rethink from the national selectors. There is every chance Chandimal will also be asked to keep wicket. All in all, it shapes as a big week for him.

Team news

Glenn Maxwell has been left out of Australia's line-up and instead they will use Mitchell Johnson as an allrounder at No.7. Michael Clarke has been passed fit to play, which means Usman Khawaja will be released from the squad.

Australia 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Mitchell Johnson, 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird.

Sri Lanka will make at least two forced changes to their side from Melbourne, with Kumar Sangakkara out due to his hand injury and Chanaka Welegedara to miss out due to a hamstring problem. Dinesh Chandimal is expected to come in for Sangakkara, while Nuwan Pradeep is the likely inclusion for Welegedara. The Sri Lankans are also waiting on news of Prasanna Jayawardene, who suffered a hairline fracture to his thumb at the MCG. If he is ruled out, Lahiru Thirimanne would likely take his place in the line-up and Chandimal would keep wicket.

Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene / Lahiru Thirimanne, 8 Dhammika Prasad, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Shaminda Eranga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep.

Pitch and conditions

The SCG is not the spin haven it once was, as evidenced by Australia's decision to choose one four fast men and one spinner instead of two slow-bowling options. In his column on the day before the Test Clarke wrote that there was "a surprising amount of grass on the SCG pitch". The weather for most of the Test is expected to be good, although there could be occasional showers on days four and five.

Stats and trivia

  • Michael Clarke needs 87 runs to go past Don Bradman's career tally of 6996 Test runs
  • Mitchell Johnson will play his 50th Test and will become the 11th Australian fast bowler to reach the milestone
  • Michael Hussey's final Test will also be his 79th consecutive Test since his debut. The only players currently enjoying longer streaks are AB de Villiers (80), Alastair Cook (85) and Mahela Jayawardene, who in Sydney will play his 93rd consecutive Test
  • Test cricket's leading run scorer and wicket taker for 2012 will be playing in Sydney. Clarke topped the run tally with 1595 at 106.33 and Herath took the most wickets, 60 at 23.61


"It's going to be a huge 12 months of cricket and it starts tomorrow against Sri Lanka at the SCG."
Michael Clarke

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sachin on January 3, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    after seeing the performance of thirimanne its time to give more opportunities to youngsters

  • rob on January 2, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    @ Future_of_pakistan_cricket on (January 02 2013, 15:15 PM GMT): Firstly, welcome. .. I must say that your first post is a very decent effort. .. I agree with everything you said about Dave Hussey, including the reason for his apparent lack of 1st class form this year. He is definitely an option that should be considered very seriously by our selectors. .. Good stuff mate, cheers.

  • Hitwicket99 on January 2, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    A very bleak future awaits SL Cricket. Few kids from the top Colombo schools are taking up Cricket these days. This is evident in the calibre of players we produce at national level.The likes of Kumar Sangakkara; a classic product of a top private school will be a thing of the past.

    SL Cricket board is possibly the most chaotic one among the ICC's members and at present acts more like a proxy of the IPL. The IPL money shields the internal chaos of SLC where thugs, politicians and racketeers jostle for supremacy and robbery.

    The structure of SL Cricket too is on the decline. In their quest to get the votes of rural clubs at Cricket Board elections, far too many 3rd rate rural clubs have been included in the Division 1 league making competition a farce.

  • Guy on January 2, 2013, 22:43 GMT

    Hey guys, seeing as Front-Foot-Lunge is still trying to work out who will win the "Minnow Big Bash", do you think we should let him in on the secret: Australia has already won the series. Maybe he can't work through the logic of 2 up with 1 to play means that you have won. Logic never was his strong suit...

  • Graham on January 2, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    FFL- Your right is not riveting as it is so one sided. I reckon during the England tour of Sril Lanka it was riverting due to the evenness of the two sides as the results suggest. Redneck makes a decent point regarding Fergusson this year as Khawaja got to bat on Adelaide Oval as well and averaged about 20 that game, unfortunately for Fergusson he only has 3 months of decent performance, he was terrible last season and injured the one before that so I believe Khawaja is deservedly in front of Fergusson.

  • Warks on January 2, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    I just hope that MJ lifts his game and becomes that allrounder! He does look like a real batsman when he is batting well, not just a tail-end slogger - good stance and some real batsman's strokes but of course Aus need him to bowl well. He is a confidence player so maybe if he can score runs he can achieve some control with the ball consistently. Would love him to really come good and do well in England. Aus won't live down another round of the Barmy Army song about MJ being proved correct "He bowls to the left... he bowls to the right... Mitchell Johnson your bowling is ...." well you get it.

  • Dean on January 2, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    @R_U_4_Real_Nick, totally with at Wibblewibble with this. We certainly don't need 5 bowlers, as i've said on this site many times if you look at the 2 greatest teams of recent times. WIN in the 80s & the recent Oz team they always played 4 bowlers. Oz in particular could easily have slotted Gilly in to the top 6 but apart from a handful of occasions he always batted at 7. Oz realised that if the top order failed with AG at 7 they still had a chance to post a competitive score & time after time they would recovery from 80/90 - 4 or 5 to post 300 plus. Broad & Bres can both bat but they are not going to provide the sort of insurance an extra batsman can as they are both too inconsistent and lets face it they are picked to take wickets. 4 bowlers should always be enough if you have 5 its usually 1 too many and 1 of them won't do much bowling. We have struggled to find a decent batsman at 6 since Collingwood retired but hopefully Root can now fill the slot.

  • Rahul on January 2, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    Will SL win their first test in countries like Aus India before 2050?

  • Tom on January 2, 2013, 17:11 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK: 5 bowlers is definitely not the way to go, unless one of them is a real top order bat as well (Saffers rejoice). You also do not need 5 bowlers if your bowlers are decent enough, there are only 90 overs a day to be bowled. The problem Aus have is that Mitchell is often too expensive, so they need someone to replace him and provide control, whilst keeping him for the occasional wicket burst.

    OTOH, if Aus roll up for the first Ashes test with Wade at 6, Johnson at 7, I'd like to thank you in advance for letting us go 1-0 up. Cheers.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    I find it strange playing this Squad, considering it wont be anything like it in future tours.