Skipper Clarke returns; visitors have never beaten Australia at the 'Gabba
Australia will have the conditions in its favour, but Sri Lanka holds the psychological edge. It should be an intriguing first final at the 'Gabba on Sunday.
History is against Sri Lanka at this venue — it has never beaten Australia in an ODI on the fast and bouncy surface.
Mahela Jayawardene's men, however, have belief and momentum. The Sri Lankans have defeated Australia in their last three meetings during the league phase of the Commonwealth Bank ODI triangular series.
Australia is likely to have its captain back for the big game on Sunday. Michael Clarke, who appears to have recovered from a hamstring strain, could come in for either David Warner or Peter Forrest in the eleven.
Injured Perera out
Sri Lanka will be without the combative Thisara Perera. The all-rounder, who is second in the side's bowling averages with nine wickets at 27.77, has a back injury.
Jayawardene, though, was optimistic about his two other pace-bowling all-rounders, Angelo Mathews (calf strain) and Farveez Maharoof (sore back), being available for the game.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankans have also flown in Chamara Kapugedera as cover. Essentially, a hard-hitting middle-order batsman, he can chip in with his seamers as well.
Under the circumstances, plenty of Sri Lankan hopes will rest on Lasith Malinga's ability to strike.
The fiery slinger came back well at the MCG after being taken to the cleaners by a rampant Virat Kohli in Hobart.
The vicious yorker that sliced through the cold night air and uprooted Shane Watson's middle-stump was a mean delivery. With 14 scalps at 32 from eight matches so far, Malinga is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
Given the injury concerns in his bowling unit, Jayawardene will once again have to be at his tactical best when he manages the overs. He may also want senior paceman Nuwan Kulasekara — a dependable support seamer — to assume a more threatening role.
Sri Lanka has experience and ability in its batting. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara form a strong barrier at the top of the order. And the young Dinesh Chandimal (383 runs at 63.83) has added steel and inventiveness to the middle-order. Another youngster, the left-handed Lahiru Thirimanne, is a smooth-stroking batsman with a liking for crisis situations.
The Aussie pacemen will come steaming in, though. James Pattinson will be a clear and present danger while Ben Hilfenhuas could exploit the conditions here with his precision and two-way movement.
The host could bring back old warhorse Brett Lee — he can still breathe fire in short bursts — and leave out Clint McKay. More seam bowling support will be provided by Daniel Christian — his confidence will be soaring after the hat-trick at the MCG — and Watson.
Australia's best chance would be in making early inroads with its firepower in pace and hustling the middle-order. How will the Sri Lankans cope with the ‘hit-the-deck' methods of the Aussies at the 'Gabba?
But then, the Aussie batting could be stretched. The top-order has appeared vulnerable and wears a rather unsettled look. Warner has not been in the best of form while Matthew Wade has been shuffled up and down the order. One of the prominent features of winning Aussie teams of the past was a formidable opening pair.
If Warner makes way for Clarke then Watson could move back to the opening slot from the No. 3 position. And if the skipper replaces Forrest in the line-up, then Watson could stay at one drop.
David Hussey in fine form
Forrest has looked very good against spin with his footwork but has this tendency to drive and push away from his body while coping with pacemen.
David Hussey has been in prime form for Australia this summer — the right-hander's ability to create room on the off-side or put away deliveries lacking in length with savage pulls have not made things easy for the bowlers.
With Clarke running into fitness concerns, Australia has lacked stability at the top. Ricky Ponting and then Watson have led the side. Clarke would be hoping to regain his grip and control of the team immediately on return.
The teams (from):
Australia: M. Clarke (capt.), D. Warner, M. Wade, S. Watson, M. Hussey, D. Hussey, D. Christian, B. Lee, J. Pattinson, X. Doherty, B. Hilfenhaus, C. McKay, P. Forrest.
Sri Lanka: M. Jayawardene (capt.), T. Dilshan, K. Sangakkara, D. Chandimal, L. Thirimanne, A. Mathews, C. Kapugedera, F. Maharoof, N. Kulasekara, R. Herath, L. Malinga, S. Senanayake, D. Prasad, U. Tharanga.
Play starts at 8.50 a.m. IST.