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January 10, 2013
Big PictureThe great mystery of Sri Lankan cricket is how they can be so disappointing in Tests and yet so impressive in the shorter formats. In part it comes down to personnel, for bowlers like Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis are not in the Test setup but are consistently dangerous in limited-overs matches. Part of it must also be a down to attitude: at times during the Test series, the Sri Lankans clearly lacked the kind of patience that could have helped them challenge Australia, but across 50 overs such a mindset is not a bad thing.
Part of is simply a matter of confidence. Sri Lanka deserve to be bullish entering this five-match series. Last time they played a bilateral one-day series in Australia they won, and in last summer's triangular series they took Australia to a third final. They have also won their past three one-dayers at the MCG, the venue of this first game.
On paper, Sri Lanka appear a much stronger side than in the Tests, and not just because of Malinga and Mendis. Thisara Perera is a fine limited-overs allrounder, Akila Dananjaya is a spinner of potential and mystery, and men such as Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, who came in for the Sydney Test, should be in their element.
Australia's squad is a mixed bag. There are four uncapped men - Phillip Hughes, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Ben Cutting - but all four are very fine players who deserve their opportunities. At 35, Brad Haddin is back for his first international match in nearly a year, and the team will be led by the T20 captain George Bailey. Their lack of experience is glaring. Missing from this squad are Michael Clarke (221 games), Shane Watson (154), Michael Hussey (185), as well as the less experienced but first-choice David Warner and Matthew Wade.
Australia have made no secret of the fact that this squad has been chosen with tours of India and England in mind, as well as the 2015 World Cup. But in the meantime, are they good enough to beat a dangerous Sri Lanka team picked as much for the present as the future?
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlight
Aaron Finch has been in irresistible limited-overs form this summer and has a chance to make his name as an ODI player. The leading run scorer in the Ryobi Cup this season with 497 runs at 99.40 and in the Big Bash League with 309 runs at 77.25, his powerful striking has been one of the major reasons the Melbourne Renegades have been the dominant team in the Twenty20 tournament. He even hit the roof at Etihad Stadium with one enormous stroke in December. Finch has played three Twenty20 internationals and performed well, and now he has his chance in the 50-over game. Finch will open the batting and his home crowd will be hoping to witness something memorable in his first ODI.
Just as Finch is the BBL's top run scorer, Lasith Malinga is its leading wicket taker with 13 at 10.69 for the Melbourne Stars. He mesmerised the Perth Scorchers with 6 for 7 and Sri Lanka hope he will carry that kind of form into this series. His slingy action disguises his accurate, swinging yorkers, deceptive slower balls and dangerous bouncers and along with the spinner Ajantha Mendis, he could be the most important player in the series.
Australia have confirmed their line-up, with Cutting and Steven Smith the men to sit out of this game. Finch and Hughes will open, with Khawaja at first drop, while Glenn Maxwell is expected to bat in the top six.
Australia 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 David Hussey, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
"We haven't finalised [the team] but the two quicks who had the niggles, Kulasekara and Eranga, both are pretty fit, both bowled yesterday so we'll let them go through their bowling routines today and make a call after that," Mahela Jayawardene said on Thursday.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis / Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditions
There was a little more pace and bounce than expected during the MCG Test and the pitch should be dry, given Melbourne's forecast of 37C for the day of the match.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"Watching a few of the replays of the games last year there were some great contests. I don't think playing in Australian conditions holds many fears for the Sri Lankans in the one-day format."
"The last time we won a series here was under Kumar when we came before the World Cup. Since then we've had a lot of success in Australia."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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