At last, let the finals begin
March 4, Brisbane
Start time 1320 (0320 GMT)
Finally, the finals. Nearly a month after the tournament began, Australia and Sri Lanka have been confirmed as the top two sides and India, the World Cup champions, are on their way home. Now it is down to the World Cup runners-up, a Sri Lankan side that looks strong under the leadership of their restored captain Mahela Jayawardene, and the No.1-ranked ODI side, an Australian outfit that disappointed at the World Cup but has made some positive steps towards regeneration.
Sri Lanka's progression has been especially impressive after they started the series with a pair of losses followed by a tie. Their only failure since then came because of that Indian chase in Hobart. Dinesh Chandimal has been outstanding in the middle order and the rest of the batsmen have made valuable contributions, while Lasith Malinga has been the tournament's leading wicket taker and looms as a key man in Sri Lanka's finals plans. The loss of Thisara Perera, who won't play any further part in the series due to a back injury, will hurt but they showed on Friday in Melbourne that they can get by without him. Sri Lanka have never beaten Australia in a Brisbane ODI but they did win their only match there in this series, against India.
Australia have been up and down, and most importantly they have been down in their past three games against Sri Lanka. It has been a funny old tournament for Australia. They have used three captains, one of whom, Ricky Ponting, was dropped mid-series. Their two best batsmen have been David Hussey, a 34-year-old on his last chance in the ODI squad, and Peter Forrest, a man playing his first international series. One of their leading one-day bowlers a month ago, Ryan Harris, has been axed, and Ben Hilfenhaus, who was a Test specialist for the past two years, has become an important member of the attack. Ultimately, they need to find a way to handle Malinga and keep Chandimal and co in check, or else Michael Clarke's unbeaten series record as captain will come to an end.
Australia LWLWL (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLWWW
In the spotlight
Shane Watson batted at No.3 on Friday and he indicated that it's a position he might fill on a permanent basis if the selectors want to persist with David Warner and Matthew Wade as an opening combination. Watson looked solid in scoring 65 and importantly, given his three-month injury lay-off, was at the crease for two hours. "It's nice to be able to spend some time in the middle," he said. "It's the first time I've really spent some time like that for the last few months."
After an unproductive start to the tour, Lahiru Thirimanne made a couple of half-centuries in the second half of the series and has proved a useful man at No.5. He might be well advised to give away the paddle sweep, though, after it brought his downfall in each of his two most recent innings against Australia. Thirimanne was also a handy bowler in a depleted Sri Lankan attack on Friday, although his medium-pacers may not be required if the bowling group is at full fitness on Sunday.
Michael Clarke is expected to be fit but the question for the selectors is who to leave out to squeeze him back in. On form, David Warner is the man who would be most vulnerable after a quiet series but it is more likely the selectors will leave the top order alone and leave out a middle-order player. The experience of Michael Hussey and the outstanding form of David Hussey could mean Peter Forrest misses out. Despite the strong start to his international career, Forrest has had two single-figure scores in his past two innings and that could cost him. The selectors must also decide whether to bring Brett Lee back in after he was left out in Melbourne.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee/Ben Hilfenhaus, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Thisara Perera has been ruled out due to the back injury he suffered in Friday's game but Angelo Mathews (calf) and Farveez Maharoof (back) are likely to play. On the seam-friendly Gabba pitch, Sachithra Senanayake might be surplus to requirements. Chamara Kapugedera has been flown in and could strengthen the batting order.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditions
The Gabba has produced two high first-innings scores in its two matches in this series: Australia made 5 for 288 against India and two days later Sri Lanka scored 6 for 289, both winning scores. The forecast for Sunday is for a shower or two and a top of 30C.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have lost the first final in each of the past three tri-series they have hosted
- Sri Lanka have won five of their past seven ODIs against Australia
- Prior to Daniel Christian's effort on Friday, three Australians had taken ODI hat-tricks; Lasith Malinga had taken that many on his own
"Playing at the Gabba is going to be a big advantage for us, with the pace and bounce that's there."
"I'm sure the Australians will come really hard at us. We just have to make sure that we play the kind of cricket we've been playing."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here