'Our death bowling needs to improve' - Clarke
Australia captain Michael Clarke believes Australia must improve their bowling at the death after another match slipped from their grasp in the dying stages. Sri Lanka needed 17 from the final two overs in Hobart but they made victory a certainty by taking 14 off the second-last over, bowled by Daniel Christian, who took a wicket but then conceded a four and a six from the next two balls.
Things had also come unstuck for Australia in Adelaide, when India needed 13 off the last over and Clint McKay conceded the runs within four legal deliveries. And two days before that, at the WACA, they were lucky to escape with a win when Mitchell Starc conceded 12 from the first four balls of the 50th over, but fortunately for Australia, Angelo Mathews holed out next ball with six runs still needed.
"Our death bowling needs to improve, that's for sure," Clarke said after the three-wicket loss in Hobart. "We've tried plenty of guys and we've got the right crew. We just have to execute better than we have throughout the whole series.
"You've got to keep trying don't you? You've got to try to give the guys out there confidence as well, and back them. I think Dan Christian getting Mathews out was a massive wicket for us. We've just got to keep working hard, keep practising in the nets, and then when we get our opportunity in the middle."
The Australians might regain Shane Watson for Sunday's match against India in Sydney after he was eased back into the squad by being named 12th man for the Bellerive Oval match. But Clarke said that despite Watson's ability to find a good yorker length, it would unrealistic to expect him to take on the role of bowling in the late stages of a match after a three-month injury lay-off.
"It's going to be hard for Watto to improve the death bowling - he hasn't played much of late," Clarke said. "I think it's a big call on him to bring him straight on and expect him to hit his yorkers straight away or improve our death bowling. The guys in the team have to be able to do it, that's for sure. We all need to get better at it. Hopefully Watto does play. He's a big player for us."
Australia's 6 for 280 looked like a winning total at the change of innings but Sri Lanka's batsmen played well to keep the chase on track throughout the innings, and it was the biggest successful chase in an ODI at the venue. Clarke said their total was good, but on such a friendly batting surface they were always in danger, should Sri Lanka's batsmen find their touch.
"It was probably a par score," he said. "The wicket was very good and if anything, with a bit of dew the ball might have skidded on a bit and made it easier to bat second. But you'd like to think you win the majority of your games making 280. We just didn't execute our skills with the ball at the death. That probably let us down. We probably could have made a few more runs, we probably could have saved a few more in the field, and we've got to execute better than that to beat a very good one-day team."
Australia now sit second on the points table and can miss the finals if India have a good finish to the tournament. However, one more victory for Australia will be enough to guarantee them a place in the deciders.
Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here