Hobart: Australia begin life without two-time World Cup winning former captain Ricky Ponting in the ODI format, aiming to consolidate their position at the top of the points table when they take on a spirited Sri Lanka in their tri-series league clash on Sunday.
Adopting a perform or perish policy, Australia dropped an out-of-form Ponting from the squad despite his massive reputation and the record of being the country`s top run-getter in the one-day format with 13,704 runs – second only to Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time list.
The Australians sit atop the table with 14 points after winning three out of their five matches. The Lankans are three points adrift after a couple of wins, equal number of losses and a tie from their five games so far.
Head to head, both the teams have beaten each other once in the competition and with India struggling to stay afloat, they could be the eventual finalists as well.
On the face of it, Australia can be termed favourites because of the home advantage but given how the Sri Lankans have adapted and exploited the conditions to their advantage is also hard to ignore.
The islanders have been unexpectedly tough and have not gone without a fight even in matches they have lost.
Against India in their previous match, the Lankan batting order gave a good account of itself and their bowlers were bang on target when it came to extracting the best out of a friendly track. The result was a comprehensive win which has given them a real chance of making the finals.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene has led a sprightly group well ably backed by a line-up which may not boast of too many heavyweights barring the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga, but has shown the spunk to punch above its weight.
Australia, on the other hand, will have their regular skipper Michael Clarke back after he sat out of the previous two matches because of a leg muscle injury.
The hosts would miss the colossal presence of Ponting but given that he was woefully out of form, the "weird" feeling of playing without him, as Clarke put it, would not be too difficult to deal with.
Also expected is the return of fit-again all-rounder Shane Watson as deputy to Clarke. The imposing cricketer was missing in action for past many weeks because of a calf injury.
Given the form, both teams would battle it out as equals in the match aiming to put a seal on the final berth.
The Teams (from):
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.
Michael Clarke (Captain), Shane Watson (Vice-captain), Dan Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
The match starts 8:50 am (IST).