Middle-order woes for hosts in dead rubber
August 22, Colombo
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
It's dead-rubber time. Australia have won the series, but Sri Lanka could still make the scoreline a more respectable 3-2 with victory in the final match in Colombo. But they need to score runs for that to happen. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan have chipped in at times during the series without ever changing a match. The middle order has been woeful, from Angelo Mathews throwing his wicket away to a serious lack of form from Chamara Silva, Dinesh Chandimal and Jeevan Mendis. The only highlight has been Upul Tharanga's century in the third match, and surprise, surprise, Sri Lanka won that match. Can they find enough runs for a consolation win?
For Australia, winning the series has been an admirable result given their recent form and the off-field drama at home with the release of the Argus report. The key has been a fine bowling performance from every member of the attack. Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, Brett Lee and Xavier Doherty have all starred at times during the series, and have given their batsmen small enough totals to chase without too much trouble. Australia would love to make it 4-1, especially with eight members of the ODI squad staying for the Tests. There's nothing like a winning mindset.
Form guide(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLLW
In the spotlight
Seekkuge Prasanna was having a rather unmemorable debut until the last few minutes of Saturday's loss. He had made a duck and then his first five overs of legspin at international level brought him 0 for 32. Suddenly, it all changed in a triple-wicket maiden that gave the Sri Lankan fans something to cheer. He had Shaun Marsh and Michael Hussey caught behind off consecutive balls, and two deliveries later bowled David Hussey. Prasanna finished with 3 for 32 and while it wasn't enough to save the match, it showed that he is a man to watch in this Sri Lanka side.
He's been around the one-day team for three years, but Shaun Marsh could finally be on the verge of claiming a permanent place in the side. Brad Haddin's move down the order is likely to be permanent, and Marsh's calm 70 in the victory over the weekend was a strong indication he is the man to partner Shane Watson in the long-term. And another impressive innings on Monday wouldn't hurt his chances of forcing his way into the Test side, either.
What to do with the middle order? That's been a problem for Sri Lanka right through the series, with Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Silva and Jeevan Mendis all failing in every innings they've played. Chandimal has already been axed, but who should get the job in the final match? Perhaps his legspin will mean Mendis is brought back in. Whatever the case, Sri Lanka need more runs. Simple.
Sri Lanka: (possible) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Nuwan Kulasekara, 8 Shaminda Eranga, 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Australia have won the series, so they have the luxury of resting or rotating as they see fit ahead of the Tests. Maybe that will mean a match off for Mitchell Johnson, or for Shane Watson, but it is a risk to mess with winning form. A more likely scenario is one of the extra bowlers being given a run - perhaps the allrounder John Hastings. David Hussey hasn't had any impact with the bat and could easily be squeezed out.
Australia: (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Mitchell Johnson, 8 Brett Lee, 9 John Hastings, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Pitch and conditions
There wasn't a lot of pace in the Colombo pitch on Saturday, and there was some spin on offer. The forecast is for a thundery shower and a top temperature of 27C.
Stats and trivia
- Lasith Malinga is the only Sri Lankan bowler to have taken more than three wickets in the series
- Sri Lanka have lost 39 wickets in the series at an average of 20.94 per wicket; Australia have lost 20 at an average of 37.20
"We'll try our best to make it 3-2, but I'm really disappointed."
"It's been a big couple of days, I think it's shown real character from all the guys."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.