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June 16, 2013
Monday, June 17, The Oval
Start time 1300 (1200 GMT)
Amid the vexing appearances of rain in the last few days, three of the four teams will nervously wait for the result of the final Group B match. Sri Lanka, who more often than not make it to the knockouts in ICC tournaments, just need a win; if they win big - that is, by about 90 runs in a full 50-over game - they can better England's net run rate and finish top of the group. Australia, who have looked a shadow of their usual selves, need to win by about 125 runs to lift their NRR above that of New Zealand and knock them out. If they bat second and Sri Lanka score 200, Australia will need to chase the target down in about 27 overs. New Zealand, who looked good to make it to the next round till a day ago, need Australia to win but not absolutely thump Sri Lanka. The London weather may interrupt the match but is expected to hold better than in Cardiff or Edgbaston.
If Sri Lanka do beat Australia by a big enough margin to leap over England, they will fix a semi-final date with South Africa at The Oval. The second-placed team from the group will play India in Cardiff.
Although, Sri Lanka and New Zealand have better chances than Australia, it is Sri Lanka who have the situation in their control. Their batting showed form during the chase against England and their bowling was exceptional in the narrow loss to New Zealand. However, they have shown over-dependence on their three stalwarts for steering their batting and their long-awaited young brigade is yet to show signs of maturity. Sangakkara was the lone ranger against New Zealand and led the chase against England with a brilliant century. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene played useful hands at The Oval too, but if Sri Lanka are to make further progress, their young batsmen will need to shoulder some of the burden of the seniors.
Australia find themselves in a strange position. The team has cruised to the knockout stages in the past, but this time, they are in danger of being eliminated without a win. Michael Clarke admitted the team was affected by the off-field controversies, but on the field they have lacked punch in their batting. The failures of Shane Watson and the absence of David Warner and Clarke have meant the batting order has never looked menacing. Stand-in captain George Bailey has shown good form with his two half-centuries, but if Australia are to make a serious attempt at improving their net run rate apart from winning the game, they will need Watson to fire.
(most recent first, last five completed games)
Sri Lanka: WLLWL
Watch out for...
It was against Sri Lanka earlier this year that Phillip Hughes burst into one-day international cricket with a century on debut and proved that he should not be considered a Test-only player. Three single-figure scores followed but he finished the five-match series in Australia with another hundred, an unbeaten 138 that set up an Australian victory to draw the series. Hughes' free-wheeling style can be suited to the 50-over format but he is yet to show his best form on this trip and threw his wicket away against England when he became tied down. A big score could not only help Australia stay in the series but might give Hughes the morale boost he needs ahead of the Ashes.
A confident Nuwan Kulasekara is not what the Australians were hoping to face in this match. Fortunately for them his form in the previous match was most impressive for his batting - a brilliant 58 not out from 38 balls as a pinch-hitting No.5 - rather than his bowling. But they know precisely how dangerous he can be in swinging conditions, as they found to their detriment at the Gabba earlier this year. Kulasekara was the architect of Sri Lanka's outstanding bowling effort to dismiss Australia for 74 in a match in which the hosts were lucky not to fall for their lowest ever ODI total, as they were 9 for 40 when the final pair came together. Rest assured that this Australian batting line-up will be just as wary of Kulasekara at The Oval as they will of the always threatening Lasith Malinga.
Michael Clarke trained with the squad in the lead-up to the match but was still considered an unlikely starter, with Australia's medical staff and team management taking a cautious approach with his back injury ahead of the Ashes. Xavier Doherty came in for Mitchell Starc last game and is expected to retain his position.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Shaminda Eranga was expensive in the win over England at the same venue and could be challenged for a place in the side by either Thisara Perera or the spinner Sachithra Senanayake.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Lahiru Thirimanne, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thisara Perera / Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Pitch and conditions
There were plenty of runs available at The Oval when England and Sri Lanka played there on Thursday and the forecast for London on Monday is for a cloudy day with the risk of showers.
Stats and trivia
"In the last two years or so we've been very consistent against Australia and we've played them very well. We managed to handle a lot of situations better than them, so hopefully we can continue that."
"Once someone in the top four goes on to make a hundred, the other guys bat around him. I'd like to see that happen in this game."
Australia's captain Michael Clarke on the need for more runs from the top order
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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