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February 16, 2012
Sri Lanka might view their tie with India as a missed opportunity, but it at least put them on the board in the Commonwealth Bank Series. All the same, they need a win soon or risk leaving their run for the finals too late. And to have the best chance of success, they need runs out of their senior batsmen; none of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga have scored a half-century so far in this tournament. The SCG might give them some hope, for they have won five of their past seven one-day internationals there, including three victories over Australia. In the past decade, it has been comfortably their best ground in Australia.
For the Australians, this match is something of a flashback: Ricky Ponting will captain the side for the first time since he quit the leadership after last year's World Cup. Australia hope it will be a one-off, and that Michael Clarke's hamstring injury will allow him to play the next game on Sunday. Whatever the case, Ponting's appointment has caused some debate, with the nominal vice-captain David Warner not considered experienced enough to lead the side. Captaincy apart, Australia can regain their lead on the series table if they win this match, but a loss would make the second half of the tournament a much closer proposition.
Australia LWWWL (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka TLLWW
In the spotlight
At 34, David Hussey finally looks like holding down a permanent place in Australia's ODI team. In and out of the side for four years, Hussey was given another chance by John Inverarity's panel and has rewarded them by being Australia's leading run scorer in the first three games of the series. Being dropped so often during his international career has forced him to play every game as if it's his last, and it's an approach that is benefiting Australia at the moment.
Kumar Sangakkara is on the verge of becoming the tenth man to score 10,000 ODI runs. He needs 11 to reach that milestone, and he will be the third Sri Lankan behind Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene to get there. He also remains one of the most respected batsmen in world cricket, and having made starts in all three Commonwealth Bank Series matches so far, Sangakkara doesn't seem far from posting a big one.
The major change for Australia is the absence of Clarke and a like-for-like swap with Michael Hussey, who was rested from the previous game, is expected. By leaving out Ryan Harris the selectors have opened up a spot for either Brett Lee or Ben Hilfenhaus, but Lee needed to prove his fitness at training on Thursday after surprising everyone with his quick recovery from a toe injury. Again, it seems doubtful that the allrounders Daniel Christian and Mitchell Marsh will squeeze into the same side, and Christian's solid efforts in the series so far have made him hard to drop.
Another concern was the fitness of left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, who suffered back spasms during training at the SCG on the eve of the match. The national selection panel called up Jon Holland, the Victoria spinner, as cover in case Doherty was ruled out on the morning of the game.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Peter Forrest, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian/Mitchell Marsh, 8 Clint McKay, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Xavier Doherty/Jon Holland, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.
At the SCG, Sri Lanka should again play two spinners, and changes to the pace-bowling group appear unlikely. Upul Tharanga is yet to reach double figures in this series but scored a couple of half-centuries in the recent series against South Africa. An extended run of poor form from him could lead to top-order changes, but for now he is likely to retain his spot.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditions
The SCG is usually a good batting surface and last time a one-day international was played at the venue, Australia chased down 334 to beat England. However, the weather could play a part: the forecast for Friday suggests the chance of thunderstorms and a top temperature of 28C.
Stats and trivia
"I think it's fair to say a few of the guys are feeling the pinch, those that have played through the Test series and then into the first three one-day games ... we're not using that as an excuse, we've got standards that we set for ourselves."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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