Series decided, but emotional finale awaits
January 3-7, SCG
Start time 1030 (2330 GMT)
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)
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.
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
Quotes"It's going to be a huge 12 months of cricket and it starts tomorrow against Sri Lanka at the SCG."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here