Battered Sri Lanka up for another fight
It's 7.30 in the morning. Sri Lanka have finished their third match in six nights only hours ago. They are back up again, in team casuals, grey polos and jeans. They are at the Brisbane airport already, ready to fly to Adelaide to play their fourth game in eight days. If they are to win the tournament, they will have played five in 10, plus three flights.
At the airport Sri Lanka are not groggy, but they are walking wounded. One of the three allrounders instrumental to their success so far, Thisara Perera, has already gone back home with injury. Angelo Mathews, fighting a calf injury, is carrying a guitar, as is the bowling coach, Champaka Ramanayake. Gingerly follows Farveez Maharoof, who beat back trouble to play in the first final.
Nuwan Kulasekara and Dhammika Prasad, the two men who hours ago nearly pulled off a heady heist, look tired, though. Their right hands are bandaged, both injured while trying to field off their own bowling. We talk a lot about wanting something badly enough, and Sri Lanka obviously do, but this is going to become an outright physical challenge too.
In such gruelling circumstances, one man you love to have on your side is Lasith Malinga, but he has had a funny old tournament. He bowls exceptionally one day, erratically the other. In two of his last three games, Malinga has bowled 15.3 overs for 170 runs. In the middle game he chipped in with 4 for 49. Sri Lanka won the middle game, and lost the other two. Australia is a test of conditions for Malinga: the outfields are lush, two new balls are being used, which makes it tough to reverse-swing the ball.
Mahela Jayawardene is not panicking. His trust in his main man is much more than what a couple of bad games can erode. "Not really [worried]," Jayawardene said. "When you have quality opposition like that, they do get away from you. This is the first time the Australians did that. India did it once in the whole series. It's not a big issue. We have to make sure that when we are faced with another situation like that, we have to handle it much better than we did today.
"I felt that we gave them the momentum up front, that's an area we definitely need to improve." Jayawardene was prepared to make allowance for the wet conditions too. "It was tough with the ball getting wet," Jayawardene said. "It was slippery. So it was tough for him to get it right. I think in Hobart (7.4 overs for 96 against India) the accuracy wasn't probably there. When you have Lasith who has done it for six years and you have two-three games off once in a while, I am quite happy. It is tough.
"The Aussie bowlers also struggled to hit the yorkers. It's all about the challenges of improving. Lasith will learn to do that with two new balls. It's a factor, it's not reversing too much. I think he has come up with a lot of different things down the years so he will come up with a better option, and try and pick up wickets up front and put pressure at the end."
Sri Lanka have played some real good cricket on this tour, which came on the back of a tough South Africa tour. The off-field distractions they have had to fight hardly need documenting. Jayawardene is a proud captain because of that, but he knows it won't amount to much if they don't win the next two games. "Well cricket wise, yes we have been very consistent, but it doesn't become a great series unless we win it," Jayawardene said when asked if this was the best ODI cricket they had played in Australia. "Yeah we have played some really good cricket, consistent cricket, but we need to finish the job. We will try and do that."
At such points, when you are all exhausted, sometimes you need one of the big players to make it easy for the rest. The situation is calling for one or more of Malinga, Kumar Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan to set up a relatively easy win.
Edited by Siddarth Ravindran
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo