VB Series finals 2005-06 February 11, 2006

Shaken Aussies in must-win situation

AFP
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Australia may have paid the price for underestimating the Sri Lankan fielding © Getty Images

Australia have crashed from being unbeatable favourites to facing a must-win match on Sunday against a rejuvenated Sri Lanka. A defeat at Sydney on Sunday would mean losing a home triangular one-day series finals for the first time in 13 years.

John Buchanan, the Australia coach, said the team must brace themselves for the consequences if they lose the VB Series finals to unfancied Sri Lanka. Australia lost to Sri Lanka at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, making 252 against the latter's 274 for 8. The Australian innings included five run-outs and a stumping.

"There would be some fallout if Australia lost the series 2-0, no doubt about that at all," Buchanan conceded. "(But) the more cut-throat or the more challenging or the more knock-out it is, that's all good for us because we're going to face it in eight months' time in the ICC (Champions Trophy) and soon after that hopefully in the World Cup."

Another factor in Australia's shock loss on Friday was the haemorrhaging of 54 runs in the final five overs of Sri Lanka's innings to give them a competitive total for the Aussies to chase under lights.

"Reflecting on last night there were a couple of things, our last five overs went for 50-odd runs which you'd expect them to go for a number of runs but probably not as many as that," Buchanan said. "Those 50 runs hurt us a little bit but even then, 270 was a reasonable total to chase if we got our foundation right. Then obviously we committed suicide not once but four times early, so we made it very difficult for ourselves to get that foundation."

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, blamed the leaking of the last five overs as "not good enough", and left open the possibility that fast bowler Mick Lewis might come into the starting 11 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Buchanan agreed but to do that selectors would have to drop a New South Welshman -- Stuart Clark or Nathan Bracken -- for a match at their home venue.

"I wouldn't expect the selectors to necessarily jump all over it and say we need a lot of change, but Mick Lewis has been brought into the squad for (his ability in the closing overs)," said Buchanan. "Whether there's scope for him to come in, I think the selectors will certainly have a chat with Ricky and myself."

One possible cause of the run outs was an underestimation of Sri Lanka in the field with athletic Tillakaratne Dilshan having a hand in four of the five run outs with some breathtaking ground fielding.

Brad Hogg, Australian left-arm spinner, said ground fielding was an area in which the Sri Lankans had made great improvement under Tom Moody, their coach and Trevor Penney, his assistant.

Hogg said, "I think where we've dominated the last few years is our fielding and I think they've picked up in their standard."