Australia v Sri Lanka, Commonwealth Bank Series, Melbourne March 1, 2012

Simple equation for startled Sri Lanka

Match facts

March 2, Melbourne
Start time 1420 (0320 GMT)

Big Picture

So much has changed in the course of an innings. Had India failed in their most unlikely pursuit of 321 inside 40 overs to earn a win and a bonus point in Hobart, Australia's final round robin match against Sri Lanka would have served primarily as a preparatory spar between the two sides ahead of Sunday's first final in Brisbane. However the extraordinary effort of Virat Kohli has added plenty of edge to the encounter at the MCG. Sri Lanka must now win or tie to make the finals, while Australia have a direct say in which team they face in the competition deciders.

The task of seeing off Sri Lanka may yet fall to Shane Watson as stand-in captain, as the selectors weigh up whether or not to play Michael Clarke in the final qualifying fixture. Clarke began the week by winning the Allan Border Medal as Australia's most outstanding cricketer of the past year, while Watson also scooped awards in the ODI and Twenty20 categories. Their squad for this match and the deciders features James Pattinson, recalled after injury, while the likes of Daniel Christian and Clint McKay will want to perform strongly to shore up their places for the finals.

Much of the certainty and stability built up by Sri Lanka was shaken in Hobart, leaving question marks against the captain Mahela Jayawardene and the fast bowler Lasith Malinga in particular. Jaywardene was not as tactically sharp as he should have been against India's blazing bats, while Malinga was treated with astounding contempt by Kohli in particular. Having only recently begun to demonstrate the consistency missing since last year's World Cup, a loss at the MCG and quick fade from the tournament would damage morale as much as anything else.

Form guide

Australia WLWLL (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWWWT

In the spotlight

James Pattinson was man of the match last time he played at the MCG, in Australia's scene-setting Boxing Day Test victory over India. Since then he has suffered from a foot injury and missed almost two months of international cricket, returning to action with match figures of 6-37 in a Futures League match for Victoria. Competition for pace bowling places in Australia's team is fierce, as Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc can attest, so Pattinson will want to find his rhythm quickly.

No bowler has ever conceded a higher rate of runs in an ODI stint of at least five overs than the 12.52 given up by Lasith Malinga in his 1-96 against India. For one of the world's most feared limited overs fast men, Tuesday was a most sobering night. The faster Malinga bowled, the further Kohli hit him, and his attempts at yorkers were repeatedly flicked to the legside boundary. Australia will be aware that Malinga's confidence has taken a hit, and will be sweating on any looseness at the MCG.

Team news

Australia may choose to give Michael Clarke another two days to rest his recovering hamstring before the first final on Sunday, leaving the captaincy in the hands of Shane Watson. They are also likely to recall James Pattinson for his first international appearance since the Sydney Test against India.

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson (capt), 3 Peter Forrest, 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.

Sri Lanka must decide whether or not to make changes to a team that was purring nicely before Tuesday's startling loss in Hobart. One adjustment has been forced by Farveez Maharoof's back complaint.

Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath.

Pitch and conditions

Melbourne's last international match can be expected to offer bounce to the pacemen and value for shots for committed batsmen. There has been cloud and rain around the city this week, but the forecast is for a clearing day tomorrow.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka last qualified for the triangular series finals in 2006
  • In 1996 Sri Lanka won through to the finals by beating Australia in the final qualifying match at the MCG.


"We think he's going to be okay for Friday. But we're certainly going to have a low-risk strategy. If he's just about right, I don't think we'll play him. But I think he'll be okay."
The national selector John Inverarity on Michael Clarke's fitness for the Sri Lanka match.

"Farveez is very doubtful for the game tomorrow. We can't take a risk with him, so he'll be out. Unfortunately we can't even have a look at the wicket because it's under cover. We'll try to have some sort of combination that we think will be good. We'll have a good look tomorrow and make a final call. There's definitely at least one change because of the injury to Maharoof."
Mahela Jayawardene on Farveez Maharoof and how to replace him.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here