Hosts brace for final Sri Lankan surge
March 6, Adelaide
Start time 1350 (0320 GMT)
Australia are a match away from sealing a dramatic and entertaining triangular series, but it is all too apparent that Michael Clarke's team is staggering towards the finish line. To wrap up the finals 2-0 the hosts will have to win two in a row for the first time since games one and two of the series, and do so on an Adelaide surface far more amenable to Sri Lanka than Brisbane's was supposed to have been. Mahela Jayawardene's Sri Lankan team, meanwhile, carries plenty of momentum from the Gabba, not least in terms of the fight shown by a lower order that was about as inclined to quit as the American revolutionaries at the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Clarke's concerns entering the second final revolve principally around his bowling, which lurched into indiscipline as Nuwan Kulasekara and others provided an unexpected fright. It was not the first time the home attack had been exploited in the later overs this series, something Clarke was at pains to address in the aftermath of the match, when he spoke less as a victor than as a leader wary of how his men are flagging. Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson were particularly loose, and only Shane Watson looked entirely in command of his length and direction. David Warner's fitness is also a problem following his match-shaping 163, and will likely force a change in the batting order.
While Sri Lanka's attack looked powerless at times on a flat surface in Brisbane, they can expect a little more help in Adelaide, on a pitch that may slow up and turn in the evening. Most pressing among Jayawardene's requirements will be that one or more of his team's vaunted top order provides a more worthy contribution than they managed at the Gabba, where the late fightback masked the earlier inattention that made such a stirring rearguard necessary.
Australia WLWLW (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLWW
In the spotlight
Xavier Doherty bowled tidily at the Gabba, maintaining his knack for the useful. However in Adelaide he will expect to play a more central role, taking wickets as well as keeping the runs down. David Hussey managed to burgle four wickets in Brisbane, and Doherty's lack of a major haul across his matches in this series will be the one thing nagging away at him. These finals are the last ones he will play as the undisputed No. 1 ODI spinner, as Nathan Lyon will vie for a place against Doherty in the Caribbean.
Nuwan Kulasekara is nobody's idea of a conspicuous cricketer, his steady right-arm medium fast bowling the sort of handy skill that can make an ODI career of substance rather than fanfare. However the way he crashed into Australia's bowlers with the bat at the Gabba suggested greater depths of flair lurk beneath, and must have caused more than a few to ask "who was that masked man?" as he left the scene with 73 to his name. His challenge in Adelaide will be to replicate that impact, with ball or bat. Another star-turn would help keep the series alive.
David Warner is in extreme doubt due to a groin injury picked up during his Gabba innings, leaving Peter Forrest the most likely reinforcement while Shane Watson returns to the top of the order. One of Pattinson or Hilfenhaus should make way for Clint McKay.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Peter Forrest, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
An extra spinner is a likely gambit by the visitors, while they are also waiting on the fitness of Angelo Mathews.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Upul Tharanga, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditions
Adelaide's surface can be expected to be of similar character to that which hosted the domestic limited-overs final. The match was a dramatic tie that ended with South Australia and Tasmania locked on 285 runs apiece, a comfortable batting surface offering some turn in the evening. The weather forecast is fine and temperate.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka were victorious the last time they met Australia in a final at Adelaide Oval, in 2006.
- That night Tillakaratne Dilshan had a hand in no fewer than four run-outs
- This will be the last international match (or matches) hosted by Adelaide Oval before the start of redevelopment work that will dramatically reconfigure the ground.
"A win is a win. But we have a lot of work to do with our Powerplay and death bowling. It hasn't been good enough all series. It continues to let us down. We are the No.1 one-day team and we have to be better than that. Hopefully that [scare] allows us to understand that we have to be better than that."
Michael Clarke was unimpressed with his bowlers in Brisbane
"The boys, at the end, showed some real character and kept fighting which is something you want to cultivate in a team."
Mahela Jayawardene saw something at the Gabba to build on in Adelaide
Edited by Siddarth Ravindran
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here