Adelaide: A rejuvinated Sri Lanka would look to exploit the injury problems and bowling woes of Australia when the two teams clash for the title in the third and last final final of the cricket tri-series on Thursday.
Just ahead of the decider, Australia have lost skipper Michael Clarke to a left hamstring problem and fast bowler James Pattinson to a buttock strain.
Australia`s cup of injury woes is overflowing as opener David Warner, who now has two successive centuries in the series, is also battling a serious groin injury. Brett Lee too has soldiered on with a broken foot.
Australia have just not been able to gather momentum against the Lankans and solidity at the top is in danger too with injury rearing its head in the ranks.
So it will be a huge task for stand-in captain Shane Watson to lift the team and stop a rampaging opponent. The major disappointment for the world number one team is how ineffective their bowling has been in the series. They have thrice let teams chase totals in excess of 270 ?- once by India and twice by Sri Lanka and their 321 at Gabba was barely good enough to prevail over the spirited Lankans.
Australia have rued the lack of solidity at the top and now that they have it, there is a worry that their lower half isn`t able to shift gears in the final overs.
Australia have planned to keep wickets in hand for the final onslaught against the Sri Lankans but it has never come about as Lasith Malinga led attack has invariably pulled them back.
Before the second finals, Clarke had also been left shaking his head in disgust in the manner they were unable to plug the run-leaks in powerplay and death overs. The second final on Tuesday only reconfirmed the worry as Lankans posted their first 100 inside the first 16 overs.
Both Tillakaratne Dilshan, now the top scorer of the series with runs in excess of 500 and skipper Mahela Jayawardene are proving an irresistible force at the top and are invariably providing a launch-pad which takes the game away from the hosts.
On the rare occasion that they have failed, like the first final in Gabba on Sunday, it`s the lower half which has come to party with unexpected runs flowing from the likes of Nuwan Kulasekara and Dhammika Prasad.
Such is the spirit running in the veins of the Lankans that Malinga completed his overs despite being in obvious discomfort during the Australian innings last night and ended up claiming 3 for 40 in his 10 overs.
A rattled Australia has called upon off-spinner Nathan Lyon to make use of the slow Adelaide pitch and after loss of faith in Ben Hilfenhaus, the shows of Brett Lee and James Pattinson are evoking similar disapproval.
Australia`s dip in form has extended in the field as well as regular shys at stumps are missing the mark and wides and no-balls are being bowled at wrong times, such as the one last night when Clint McKay claimed Jayawardene in the second over itself, only to realize that he had bowled a no-ball.
So superior appear the Lankans that despite dropping half a dozen chances in the second final, they were still overwhelming winners by eight wickets.
Both the sides wish to finish the series on a high as they have a packed schedule ahead of them. Lankans head for Asia Cup in Bangladesh and then have a premium series against world’s best Test side, England, at home.
Australia leave for the Caribbean within three days of finishing tomorrow`s final and play their first one-day international at St. Vincent on March 16.
Australia has enjoyed a splendid summer after early setbacks against South Africa and New Zealand, whipping India 4-0 in the Test series and setting the pace early in the triangular series.
But it’s all now coming apart at the seams with Ricky Ponting probably having played the last of his one-day internationals and Lee appearing no better than a shadow of his mighty self. All this, by a team which has been without wages since the 2011 World Cup in April and have had frequent shuffles in captains and coaches.
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: 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
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and Bruce Oxenford (Aus)
Third umpire: Simon Fry (Aus)
Match referee: Chris Broad (Eng).
Match starts at 8.50 am (IST).