Australia's A-team back in action
January 18, Gabba
Start time 1320 (0320 GMT)
The A-team is back. There's Michael "Hannibal" Clarke, who loves it when a plan comes together. There's David "B.A" Warner, the muscles of the operation. There's Matthew "Howling Mad" Wade, who had every right to be after Ian Healy's stinging criticism last week. The only one still missing is Shane "Faceman" Watson. Perhaps he's off with that intrepid reporter who was always hanging around the group. What was her name? Amy Allen? Or was it Lee Furlong? Whatever the case, John Inverarity and his selection panel had a problem. No one else could help. So he found them and hired them for the next two games, and no more are Australia relying on the B-team.
George Bailey's side was excellent in the first match in Melbourne but extremely disappointing in Adelaide on Sunday. Australia enter this third ODI with the series level at 1-1 and Clarke back at first drop; their leading run scorer over the past year, Warner, at the top of the order again; and Wade back behind the stumps. It brings the Australian outfit much closer to what would be their first-choice side if all players were fit and available, that mythical "best XI" that Inverarity says the selectors know, yet Australian fans are unlikely to see anytime soon.
In Watson's absence, the selectors decided a seam-bowling allrounder was required at the Gabba and Moises Henriques was called up for his first ODI since late 2009 but after being struck on the hand at training twice over the past two days, he was sent for scans and could be forced to sit out. "He's certainly got his fingers crossed and hoping the scan comes back clear, as we all are, because I know he's looking forward to his opportunity," Clarke said of Henriques. "He got hit yesterday when bowling. I actually straight-drove one back and he got his finger on it so it was a little bit sore but fine. Then while batting in the nets today he got hit again."
Sri Lanka's challenge is to ensure the Adelaide game was not a one-off. Their seamers moved the ball around at Adelaide Oval and while the Gabba has a reputation for providing assistance as well, it is also a venue at which big totals are regularly accumulated in one-day cricket. Sri Lanka have never beaten Australia in a one-day international at the Gabba, and going 2-1 down in a five-match contest would be far from ideal.
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In the spotlight
Matthew Wade is back after being rested from the first two matches and during his time off, his wicketkeeping was severely criticised by Ian Healy during a radio interview. The fact that Brad Haddin made runs and kept sharply, including one especially stunning catch, during the first two ODIs will only intensify the attention on Wade's glovework during his return.
It was at the Gabba last summer that Lahiru Thirimanne was at the centre of controversy when he was mankaded by R Ashwin in a one-day international, only to be recalled by India's acting captain Virender Sehwag. Fortunately for Thirimanne, he has attracted attention on the current tour of Australia only for his run-making, which included 91 in the Sydney Test and a maiden ODI century in Adelaide on Sunday. Thirimanne is a fine stroke-maker and with Kumar Sangakkara unavailable due to injury, he is quickly becoming one of the most prized wickets for Australia's bowlers on this tour.
If Henriques is ruled out it will mean Ben Cutting and Glenn Maxwell will vie for his place. The fact that the selectors specifically wanted an extra seamer, though, suggests they would likely choose Cutting, who was originally not part of the squad for this game, but may yet get the chance to play an international at his home ground.
Australia (possible) 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 David Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 George Bailey, 5 David Hussey, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Moises Henriques / Ben Cutting, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Dinesh Chandimal remains in some doubt after missing Sunday's match due to a hamstring problem. If he is declared fit, the selectors could bring him back in a straight swap for the wicketkeeper Kushal Perera, although another option would be to drop the out-of-form opener Upul Tharanga.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dinesh Chandimal / Kushal Perera (wk), 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Pitch and conditions
The weather forecast indicates a fine and sunny day with a high temperature of 33C. There should be plenty of runs available on a good batting pitch. In the past three ODIs at the Gabba, the teams batting first have scored 288, 289 and 321. "In my opinion this is the best one-day wicket in the world," Clarke said on the eve of the match. "It has beautiful pace and bounce for the bowlers, but as you get in as a batter there's no better place to bat."
Stats and trivia
- Australia have won their past six ODIs at the Gabba; Sri Lanka have won two of the 13 ODIs they have played there
- Ajantha Mendis needs two victims to reach 100 ODI wickets and if he reaches the milestone during this series he will be the quickest Sri Lankan to the mark
- If Henriques plays, it will mean a gap of 79 ODIs between appearances for him; during that three-year period Australia have used 43 other players in one-day internationals
Quotes"The break has been great for my body. It has given me every chance to have a lot of rehab in regards to my hamstring. It has given me a week off mentally as well, to refresh."
"We have to look forward to winning all three games. We have clicked at the right point so it's a good positive for the whole team."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here