Hobart: Less than two weeks ago, after Australia hammered Australia by 107 runs in the first ODI, and following three big wins in the Tests, it was being asked whether Sri Lanka would be able to make this series a contest. Now, with Sri Lanka owing a 2-1 lead going into Wednesday’s final ODI at Hobart, many are pondering a disheveled Australia’s chances of preventing their second home bilateral series loss to Sri Lanka.
How did it come to this? Following defeat in Melbourne, Sri Lanka found the momentum from their pace bowlers who set up victories by eight and four wickets respectively in Adelaide and Brisbane. In the second ODI a tight bowling performance ensured Sri Lanka had to chase 171; in the third Nuwan Kulasekara grabbed five wickets as Australia folded for 74. Sri Lanka’s chance to wrap up the series in Sydney was ruined when the fourth ODI was washed out. Again it was the quick men who set Sri Lanka an attainable 223 for victory, and the visitors were 14 for no loss when a damp outfield forced the abandonment.
In the days since Sydney, Sri Lanka have mulled writing to the ICC seeking an explanation for abandoning the match when it could have completed after the rain delay. Now it is in their best interests to repeat what they have done so masterfully in the last three ODIs and give outgoing captain Mahela Jayawardene a memorable series win ahead of his final match in charge. If Kulasekara – who has taken ten wickets at 12.90 so far – can put in one final display of his craft and Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath support him as they have been then Jayawardene’s last match as captain could result in a successive bilateral series win in Australia.
Australia are staring at a series defeat largely because of the failure of their batting line-up to cope with Kulasekara’s swing and the all-round utility of Sri Lanka’s bowling. Totals of 170, 74 and 222 for 9 have owed to the batsmen struggling against skilful swing bowling and in the must-win match at Hobart a relapse cannot be afforded.
Compounding their worries is the ankle injury that looks to rule skipper Michael Clarke out of the decider. Clarke’s place looks set to go another allrounder in Glenn Maxwell, meaning that George Bailey will lead the side.
In batting-friendly conditions at Bellerive Oval on what is expected to be a sunny day, Australia’s batsmen will have to deliver to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
Australia: 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 David Warner, 3 George Bailey (capt), 4 David Hussey, 5 Matthew Wade (wk), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty
Sri Lanka: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Kushal Perera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath