Two matches in to the series, it seemed like Sri Lanka were going to make Australia sweat. In both those games their bowling restricted an explosive Australia middle order, and the second game went to a Super Over
. Since then, though, Sri Lanka have lost key players to either injury or Covid-19, and Australia have cruised home twice. Sri Lanka's main problem is their batting. With Charith Asalanka
struggling to produce the sorts of innings he lit up the T20 World Cup with, and several of the other top-order batters struggling, Sri Lanka are frequently losing matches inside the first ten overs of their innings.
Australia, meanwhile, have showcased their depth - several fringe players producing excellent performances. Josh Inglis, who had not previously played for Australia, is the leading run scorer
in the series, while with the ball Kane Richardson
, Jhye Richardson
, and even Ashton Agar
have kept Sri Lanka's batters under pressure. They've won the last two matches so convincingly they've barely needed their finishers.
If the hosts win on Sunday they will have recorded their first whitewash in a five-match T20I series. It'll take Sri Lanka's batters raising their game substantially to prevent that.
Australia WWWWW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLW
' scoops, rasping pull shots and crunching drives have brought him 132 runs at a strike rate of 150 this series, prodding Australia forward through the early middle overs. He hadn't exactly set the recent Big Bash League on fire with his batting, so this is a well-timed coming to form. He has been so impressive Australia will struggle to displace him once their first-choice top order returns.
With or without Wanindu Hasaranga in the XI, fingerspinner Maheesh Theekshana
has continued to be quietly impressive. So far in his international career, he hasn't been a big wicket-taker, though in four matches this series he has managed five dismissals. He provides consistently cheap powerplay overs and rarely seems to stray far from his tight wicket-to-wicket line. He has not had the attention of some of the other emerging players, but he has been one of Sri Lanka's best finds of the past 12 months.
Expect the MCG surface to be good for batting again. The forecast suggests rain will not interrupt play.
With Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all rested, and Steven Smith out with concussion, Australia don't have a lot of scope for changing their XI. Though they may just think about giving either Moises Henriques, or Travis Head, or both a game, as those players have not yet appeared in this series.
Australia (probable): 1 Ashton Agar, 2 Ben McDermott, 3 Aaron Finch (capt), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Josh Inglis, 6 Moises Henriques/Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Daniel Sams, 9 Jhye Richardson, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Kane Richardson
Sri Lanka, similarly, don't have a lot of options, as Avishka Fernando, Binura Fernando, Hasaranga and Ramesh Mendis are all unavailable. They may think about bringing in Janith Liyanage for the misfiring Danushka Gunathilaka.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Mendis, 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Janith Liyanage, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Jeffrey Vandersay, 11 Lahiru Kumara Sri Lanka have now lost their last eight T20Is in Australia. They had also been whitewashed 3-0 in 2019. Pathum Nissanka is by a distance the top scorer of the series so far, with 171 runs. Those runs have come somewhat slowly, however - his strike rate is 113. Although clearly one of the best T20I teams on the planet, even a win on Sunday is not enough to lift Australia into the top five on the team rankings table. Sri Lanka languish at tenth.