Sri Lanka fight to stay in series
Sri Lanka's match against Australia at the MCG on Friday is not technically a must-win game for the visitors but Mahela Jayawardene knows another defeat could be as good as fatal to their CB Series. Australia are all but into the deciders - a victory on Friday will confirm it - and they are taking the opportunity to again rest their spearhead Brett Lee.
However, Jayawardene said with several Australia batsmen out of form the hosts would be keen to regain their touch ahead of the finals. "I've played Australia quite a few times," Jayawardene said. "They don't take any game lightly. Even without Brett they've done pretty well, they've shown that they can control things out there in the middle."
Ricky Ponting has been one of Australia's struggling batsmen, with 53 runs at 10.60 during the series, and he said it was time for the top order to pull its weight. Ponting was preparing to speak to his batsmen at their team meeting on Thursday but he conceded it was difficult to be inspiring when he was a chief culprit.
"It's pretty hard to go and talk to the rest of the guys and tell them to get their head down when I can't get it myself," he said. "We haven't played anywhere near our best cricket just yet, as a team.
"We've managed to fight and kick and scratch and win some games - and some have been pretty entertaining games - but they've all been low-scoring ones. Our bowling so far right through the tournament has been outstanding. If we've ever been in any trouble in any game so far it's been as a result of our batting."
Sri Lanka's top order is a concern as well, and they have not enjoyed a 50-run opening stand throughout the tournament. Jayawardene said they had not decided on their final line-up but they would need to consider whether to keep Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top after he failed in his past two starts following a match-winning 62 against India in Canberra.
A victory in Melbourne will keep Sri Lanka's hopes alive and Jayawardene said his batsmen in particular had to improve. "The picture is very clear," he said. "We need to at least win two more out of our three games. We've made some mistakes and we deserve to be where we are."
One of the keys for both teams will be to put the Indian Premier League out of their minds after several players from each side fetched around the million-dollar mark on Wednesday. Andrew Symonds was sold for $1.35m, while his more experienced team-mates Ponting and Matthew Hayden went for less than $400,000 each, and Ponting was keen for the players to forget about the money.
"We'll have to talk about it today at training," he said. "We'll all get together and probably just clear the air a little bit. I'm pretty sure the coach will make sure that happens. For me and a few other batsmen it's about time we put all this stuff behind us and moved on and played some good cricket."
Australia (likely) 1 Adam Gilchrist (wk), 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 James Hopes, 8 Brad Hogg, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Stuart Clark.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Chaminda Vaas, 9 Ishara Amerasinghe, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo