|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
February 21, 2008
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.
A gutting loss to England, after leading the series 1-0, has thrown up some glaring inadequacies in the Indian team but there is little being said or done in terms of improvement
His rapid improvement with the ball has been integral to England coming from behind to lead the series - but that is just one area where Moeen Ali continues to impress
On the eve of Mahela Jayawardene's final Test, his team-mate, best friend and fellow batting superstar Kumar Sangakkara speaks about what made him, and them, tick
After 8-0, MS Dhoni could look forward to building a team from scratch; now, there is nothing left for him to contribute. Free him from the Test captaincy and he could yet give back in other ways
For all MS Dhoni's many trophies and accomplishments, Test cricket continues to resist his magic and indefinitely postpone his motorbike ride into the sunset
His decisions in the England series have seemed to confirm that he does not care too much for the Test game. Maybe he should be concentrating on the World Cup
With too great an emphasis on limited-overs cricket, MS Dhoni's side have a set of skills and a level of concentration that are not commensurate with the necessities of Tests