Australia face do-or-die battle against Sri Lanka in CT
London: Defending champions Australia will have to put David Warner`s bar brawl controversy and questions surrounding their team culture behind them when they take on Sri Lanka in their final league fixture here on Monday to decide the last of the remaining ICC Champions Trophy semifinal places.
It will be a virtual quarterfinal clash between the two sides at Kennington Oval but a lot will depend on the outcome of the Group A match between England and New Zealand in Cardiff to decide the equations.
If New Zealand win, Australia will have to beat Sri Lanka but if England triumph, they must beat the Islanders by a huge margin to surpass Black Caps` net run-rate, currently the best in the Group.
A win will seal Sri Lanka`s place in the last four while a defeat will see them go home.
Sri Lanka`s recent success against Australia will provide a psychological edge to them -- in the last 10 ODIs played between the two sides, Sri Lanka have won six while they drew the ODI series 2-2 earlier this year in Australia.
Australia have just one point from two games, starting their campaign with a defeat to England and then having their game against New Zealand washed out.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka were skittled out for a paltry 138 against New Zealand in their tournament-opener but a superb bowling show by slinger Lasith Malinga saw them very nearly defend the total before losing by one wicket.
Sri Lankan batsmen, however, gave a better account of themselves in their stunning run chase against England to romp home against the hosts. Led by Kumar Sangakkara`s unbeaten 134, they chased down the 294-run victory target with relative ease to keep their semifinal hopes alive.
For Australia, it would not just be about tackling the threat posed by in-form pacer Malinga but also to regroup in after Warner's altercation with England batsman Joe Root in the early hours of last Sunday morning.
It happened close on the heels of another off-field controversy involving Warner, who only three weeks ago was fined over an expletive-ridden Twitter tirade at two Australian cricket journalists, reminding of another unsavoury chapter in Australia's questionable team culture.
Australia's regular skipper Michael Clarke continues to battle back problems, which saw him missing the first two games, but is hopeful of a return to action on Monday.
The struggling side will have to work on its batting frailties after proving to be no match to the English, suffering a 48-run defeat in what was dubbed as a prelude to the five-Test Ashes series in July-August.
It will be a big test for stand-in skipper George Bailey to turn Australia's fortunes around tomorrow.
Australia bowlers Clint McKay, James Faulkner and Shane Watson did a decent job in restricting England to 269 when they were looking at a 300-plus score at one stage but they still need to add more sting to their attack.
Sri Lanka have built up a nice batting unit in big three -- Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene -- and a lot will depend on them in deciding the outcome of the match.
Their batsmen fired in unison against England in the last match with the likes of Dilshan, Jayawardene and Nuwan Kulasekara among the run-makers.
On the bowling front, Malinga would need some good back-up from Shaminda Eranga and Rangana Herath to cause damage in the fragile Australian line-up.
The weatherman has predicted partly cloudy sky with rain or thunderstorm and it would be interesting to see what fate has in store for both the teams.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Dinesh Chandimal, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Xavier Doherty, Phillip Hughes, Clint McKay, Glenn Maxwell, Adam Voges, David Warner.
Match starts at 5:30pm (IST).
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