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07 March 201514:52

Australia v Sri Lanka Preview, Match 32, Sydney

Spin expected to be a factor in intriguing Sydney clash between two teams coming off emphatic wins

Australia v Sri Lanka Preview, Match 32, Sydney - Cricket News

Both teams are almost assured of a place in the last eight, with games against Scotland to come.

If there’s one Asian team not overawed by the Australian experience, it’s Sri Lanka. The team may trail 31-55 in the overall head-to-head numbers, but in matches against Australia on Australian turf in the new millennium, it has a 12-17 record – superior to India’s (5-11) and better than Pakistan’s (3-10). The team has been exceptionally good at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where it has won its last two completed matches against Australia and four of the last eight (with two defeats).

All this suggests that the home side and pre-tournament favourite will not have it all its own way on Sunday (March 8). After a poor start against New Zealand, the Sri Lankan batsmen have worked their way into ominous form.

Injuries to Dimuth Karunaratne, who is out of the tournament, and Rangana Herath (on the sidelines after needing stitches in a finger injury) have forced Sri Lanka to tinker with the XI. Upul Tharanga, who has 13 One-Day International centuries, could come into contention, but if Sri Lanka opts for the extra bowler, then both Seekkuge Prasanna – drafted into the squad as a replacement for Karunaratne – and Sachitra Senanayake will play.

On a very dry pitch, spin will undoubtedly be a factor. Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka’s captain, was appreciative of the work that Senanayake has put in to correct his bowling action, but though he has an extremely modest record, Prasanna’s ability to take the ball away from the right-hand batsmen could also see him in the fray.

One man who will definitely keep his place is Suranga Lakmal, who went for 71 in 7.4 overs against England. “He's bowled really well in the first three games,” said Mathews. “Bowlers tend to have their off days, and it was an off day for him certainly in the last game. He's a very good bowler, and we all know that. He can bowl with the new ball, in the middle, and also at the death.”

Australia dropped Shane Watson for the match against Afghanistan in Perth, but the conditions in Sydney mean that he’s very much part of the equation ahead of Sunday’s game. Mitchell Marsh has recovered from a foot problem, but Watson’s experience and his changes of pace possibly make him a better bowling option. But whether he’ll be restored to No. 3 if he does play remains to be seen.

There could also be an outing for Xavier Doherty, the left-arm spinner. Australia does have Glenn Maxwell, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith as slow-bowling options, but Doherty could get a look in if the selectors decide to go with a specialist. If he plays, Josh Hazlewood is most likely to sit out.

“I think he can bat anywhere,” said Clarke about Watson on the eve of the game. “I think he’s shown at the top of the order that he can be extremely successful. He averages over 40 in one-day cricket and he’s striking at about 90, so I think he’s skilful enough to bat anywhere in the order.”

Its recent record in Australia notwithstanding, Sri Lanka has found the side its bogey in the World Cup. Australia has won six of the eight matches between the teams on the biggest stage, and you have to go back to St Patrick’s Day in 1996 for Sri Lanka’s only success. There was, of course, the small matter of that being a World Cup final.

Both teams are almost assured of a place in the last eight, with games against Scotland to come, but Sunday’s encounter could have huge repercussions for the knockout stages. The loser will almost certainly have to play South Africa in the quarterfinal – instead of West Indies/Pakistan/Ireland – and if it surmounts that hurdle, a trip across the Tasman Sea awaits, to play the semifinal in Auckland.

With both teams coming off emphatic wins, this could be a contest to savour. There have been too few of them in the group stages, especially between full-member nations, and the quarter-semifinal permutations should ensure that both teams treat it as they would a knockout game.


Australia (likely):
David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh/Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.

Sri Lanka (likely): Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardena, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Sachitra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal.

You can follow the build up to the game and the live scoring and match highlights for Australia v Sri Lanka here in the ICC Match Centre