Australia's bid to salvage a 2-2 series draw against Sri Lanka is likely to be made without the captain Michael Clarke, who is an unlikely starter for Wednesday's fifth ODI in Hobart after suffering a sprained ankle in a training mishap. Clarke rolled his ankle as the team prepared for the final match of a series they can only level at 2-2 following Sunday's wash-out in Sydney, and was due to have the injury assessed during Tuesday afternoon.
But he is extremely doubtful to recover in time, leaving George Bailey likely to lead the team at Bellerive Oval. Bailey stood in at the pre-match captain's press conference and said Clarke would be given until the last minute on Wednesday to prove his fitness.
"He's heading off for a scan now," Bailey told reporters in Hobart. "Hopefully it's all clear. He'll be given right up until the toss tomorrow to prove that he's right to go. Hopefully that scan is clear. There will obviously be a little bit of pain but if he's 100% he'll play."
If Clarke is sidelined it will weaken Australia's batting line-up significantly. Unless the selectors call in another batsman as cover, Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques would likely both play as batting allrounders at Nos. 6 and 7.
"I think if you're replacing Michael Clarke with anyone it's a step down, and that's no disrespect to whoever needs to replace him, but he's an outstanding player," Bailey said. "Whenever you're losing the experience and calibre of player it's a challenge, which hopefully guys step up into. That's what we're hoping.
"That's what we've lacked in the last couple of games, is someone stepping up as an individual or even in a batting partnership to fill the gaps that Michael Hussey leaving and Ricky Ponting leaving has created. With that comes huge opportunity.
"That's the word we keep using and that's still there. If individuals within the group can stand up, particularly at the top of the order, and settle the change rooms down, get a good partnership going, then we saw in Melbourne how well the guys can bat."
Bailey acknowledged that Australia's batsmen had struggled to deal with a trio of matches where the ball has seamed and swung, having particular trouble with the inswingers of Nuwan Kulasekara.
"He has been very accurate and swung the ball nicely," Bailey said. "There is an art to that itself, when the ball is swinging to still have the control to land it where you want and there is no doubt he is bowling well and putting the ball almost exactly where he wants it more times than not."
"The challenge for us is to combat that ... whether that is doing something different as a batsman, being a little sharper with your feet, putting him off his game, whatever it might be, hoping he has a bit more of an off day. There is no doubt he is at the top of his game at the moment.
"I think it's a challenge. Facing good spin is a challenge. That's cricket. In a nutshell, the swinging ball is always what bowlers try and produce because it's the hardest ball to play as a batsman. That's always going to be the type of bowling that will challenge batters."