Sydney: Sri Lanka`s sprightly cricketers will look to end their winless streak when they take on an Australia sans talismanic skipper Michael Clarke in the tri-series one-dayer on Friday.
Lying at the bottom of the points table, the closest Sri Lanka got to a win in the series was the nerve-wrecking tie against India in their last match.
But the islanders, unpaid for the past several months by their Board, have shown the stomach for a fight and they might just get the elusive win to show for the hard work so far when they take on Australia, which will have an old guard in Ricky Ponting as captain.
With Clarke out nursing a hamstring strain and the selectors not too confident about vice-captain David Warner, Ponting has been handed the job he quit last year.
"I want to make it very clear this is Michael Clarke`s team that I`m just stepping up to look after for a couple of days," Ponting said.
"Everyone knows my appointment`s been made for hopefully only Friday. Hopefully Michael comes up for Sunday`s game (in Brisbane), so really this is just about taking over Michael`s team and leading the team well and hopefully getting the result the team`s after," he added.
Australia goes into the match on the back of a narrow four-wicket loss to India in their previous match. The biggest concern to emerge from the defeat was the top-order failure. The flamboyant Warner`s fireworks didn`t last long enough and the gamble to push Ponting to the opener`s slot didn`t work either. With Clarke out, Ponting`s form would be all the more crucial in tomorrow`s match even though Michael Hussey`s return will bolster the line-up.
It was left to debutant Peter Forrest and David Hussey to rescue the innings in Adelaide but once they departed, the Aussies failed to build on the foundation they had laid. Another baffling decision was to keep in-form rookie wicketkeeper Mathew Wade down the order after asking him to open in the previous couple of matches.
On the upside, a new batting talent in Forrest was unearthed and it would be interesting how the 26-year-old does tomorrow after striking an impressive half century on debut. On the bowling front, veteran pace spearhead Brett Lee is expected to be back to lead the attack after making a stunning early recovery from a toe injury. Ryan Harris has been "forced" to rest under the rotation policy -- something that the bowler is not too happy about himself.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have batting problems of their own to sort out. The aggressive Tillakaratne Dilshan`s bat has been uncharacteristically quiet and Kumar Sangakkara is also due to play an innings of substance.
Dinesh Chandimal and Mahela Jayawardene though batted well in the match against India but the lack of a concerted effort means that bowlers have been far too often left too little to play with.
The bowlers, on their part, have done a decent job. This was evident from the way they stifled a formidable Indian batting line-up in the previous match.
The likes of Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulsekara need their batsmen to put enough runs on the board to ensure that their effort gets the team the right result.
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.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (c), Dan Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Mike Hussey, David Hussey, Mitchell Marsh, Clint McKay, Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade and David Warner.
The match starts 8:50 am (IST).