Australia v Sri Lanka: 3rd ODI, Sunday 7 November, 1.10pm (AEDST) at the ’tGabba (Channel 9)
The Sri Lankans came to the land down under with one goal – to win a series against the all-conquering Australians in Australia. Not only have they achieved that goal, but they’ve done it with one match still left to play in the series.
A Sri Lankan side full of self-belief made the most of every opportunity presented during its rain-affected 29-run victory at the SCG. Openers Upul Tharanga (86*) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (47) pounced on an Australian pace attack seemingly well down on confidence. Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera and Thisara Perera made full use of the ideal pace bowling conditions, snaring five wickets between them and varying their pace aptly. Every single fielder was clean and alert, highlighted by Mahela Jayawardene’s superb effort to run out the dangerous Mitchell Johnson at a crucial stage of the game.
However, the Australians were disappointing in all departments of their game. Not one of the team’s strike fast bowlers managed to take a wicket despite the favourable pace bowling conditions. Johnson particularly struggled with the ball, failing to find a consistent line and length throughout his seven overs. The fielding was sloppy to say the least with the normally faultless Michael Hussey fumbling on a few occasions. Afterward, Australia’s batsmen weren’t able to build any significant partnerships throughout their batting innings as wickets fell at a constant rate.
The only major positive to come out of the game for the Aussies was the performance of Shane Watson. The batting all-rounder continued his rich vein of form, taking 2-34 from his eight overs and followed up with a patient 40 at the top of the order. Unfortunately for Watson, he didn’t have too many other helpers.
With Ricky Ponting set to miss this match, Callum Ferguson has a golden opportunity to announce himself and prove he is worthy of Ashes selection. The 25-year-old was part of the recent one-day squad that toured India but didn’t get selected to play. But since returning to Australia, Ferguson has been in menacing form, scoring 129 from just 143 balls for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia. He is still waiting to play his first game for Australia since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Champions Trophy final against New Zealand 12 months ago. Ferguson has already played 25 One Day International matches and has impressed with five 50s and an average of 46 with the bat. He is an exciting prodigy and, if given the opportunity to play, could be the inspiration his country desperately needs.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara must be thrilled with how his Australian tour has gone so far from both a team and individual perspective. His side has won all three games against the Australians on this tour and they continue to grow in confidence with the more cricket they play. But the 33-year-old’s contributions with the bat have been invaluable, with scores of 44, 49 and 45 from his three attempts at the crease. As well as being a gifted wicketkeeper, Sangakkara is one of the most graceful and assured batsman in the world. If he can turn one of those midrange scores of 40 into triple figures, Sri Lanka is likely to leave its tour of Australia undefeated.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS:
The ’tGabba pitch has always been considered the best in Australia because there is always something for both batsman and bowler. However, the New South Wales pace attack had a field day during a recent Sheffield Shield game, dismissing Queensland for 75 and 96. Once again rain might interrupt play, with a few showers forecast for the city of Brisbane. But with a predicted top temperature of 26 degrees and an even covering of grass the humid conditions will make it perfect for pace bowling. Pretty simple – win the toss and bowl first.
As mentioned earlier, Ponting will miss the third one-day match after a disappointing effort with the bat on Friday night. The Aussie skipper has opted to travel down to Hobart and prepare for Tasmania’s next Sheffield Shield clash against Queensland. Ponting will be replaced by Ferguson, meaning the heavily scrutinised Michael Clarke will captain the side. Nathan Hauritz took 1-48 in Sydney and probably did enough to retain his spot in the side ahead of Xavier Doherty. Mitchell Starc or John Hastings might also be given an opportunity:
- Shane Watson
- Brad Haddin (WK)
- Michael Clarke (C)
- Callum Ferguson
- Michael Hussey
- Cameron White
- Steve Smith
- Mitchell Johnson
- Nathan Hauritz
- Clint McKay/Mitchell Starc
- Peter Siddle/John Hastings
Sri Lanka is in such good form at the moment that there is no point in fiddling with the team’s winning structure. Here is how the Sri Lankans should line up unless there is a serious injury:
- Upul Tharanga
- Tillakaratne Dilshan
- Mahela Jayawardene
- Kumar Sangakkara (C & WK)
- Chamara Silva
- Angelo Mathews
- Thisara Perera
- Suraj Randiv
- Nuwan Kulasekera
- Lasith Malinga
- Muttiah Muralitharan
The biggest positive to come out of Sri Lanka’s campaign so far has been the performances of some of their younger players, particularly Perera and Mathews. Both relatively unknown to the Australian public before this tour, Perera has taken seven wickets from the opening two matches while Angelo Mathews’ 77* at the MCG was one of the finest one-day individual innings you will ever see.
But despite Sri Lanka’s outstanding performances over the first two games, the media has been quick to swoop on the fragile Australians. The relatively inexperienced bowling attack has been the main target of the criticism, after being dismantled by Sri Lanka’s top order in the second match and failing to close out the first from a seemingly unlosable position.
Australia has now lost seven successive matches across all three formats, a statistic that hasn’t been hanging over the head of an Australian Cricket team since the 1980’s. It sounds simple, but the Aussies have to win this match and get back to the cricket everyone knows they are capable of playing.
The ’tGabba pitch will suit Australia’s pace attack, particularly Johnson. Along with Ferguson, Johnson holds key to his team’s chances of winning and his plethora of experience on the ’tGabba wicket will be crucial. He needs to take early wickets, not only for his team’s sake, but also for his own personal confidence.
Despite the match being a dead rubber, expect the Australians to perform much more strongly this time round and make a sound statement before the Ashes series.