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    SL take on Australia in a must-win tie

    If the Aussies beat the Sri Lankans, India will be through to the best-of-three finals.

    Melbourne: Indian cricketers and millions of their fans would be unified in praying for an Australian victory when the hosts take on Sri Lanka in the last but the most crucial league match of the ODI tri-series here on Friday.

    But for the miraculous 321-run chase in under 40 overs against Sri Lanka, India were out of the fray but the win has given them a glimmer of hope.

    If the Aussies beat the Sri Lankans, India will be through to the best-of-three finals. In fact, the Indians have put their practice on hold till the result.

    A major worry for Australia, already in the finals, is the stiff back of skipper Michael Clarke. Clarke, who has already sat out of a few matches in the series because of the problem, may not be available even on Friday.

    "We think he's going to be okay for Friday. But we're certainly going to have a low-risk strategy. If he's just about right, I don't think we'll play him. But I think he'll be okay," national selector John Inverarity has stated on Clarke's fitness ahead of the match which is statistically of no significance to Australia.

    Should it be decided to rest Clarke, the leadership would be once against taken over by allrounder Shane Watson, who was magnificent with the ball in the match against India.

    Pace sensation James Pattinson is also expected to be back after recovering from a foot injury that he picked up during the Sydney Test against India in January.

    A concern would be the broken toe of pace spearhead Brett Lee even though he has vowed to play through the pain barrier.

    Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have quite a few issues to deal with after the stunning debacle against India. The side was more or less through to the finals before the abject surrender in Hobart, despite putting more than 300 runs on the board, jeopardised their chances.

    No bowler has ever conceded a higher rate of runs in an ODI stint of at least five overs than the 12.52 that Sri Lanka's star Lasith Malinga did in his 1-96 against India.

    A bowler, who is feared internationally, it was a thoroughly humbling night as Virat Kohli took him to the cleaners.

    On the bright side, the aggressive Tillakaratne Dilshan's bat, which had been uncharacteristically quiet, plundered runs against India.

    Kumar Sangakkara too hit form with a hundred of his own and the duo's form would once again be crucial to the team's overall prospects.

    Teams:

    Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Angelo Mathews, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Sachithra Senanayake, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera, Dhammika Prasad and Lahiru Thirumanne.

    Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, Dan Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner