Sri Lanka have clinched three of their four CB Series league ties against Australia, including Friday's last-over victory that sealed their place in the finals ahead of India. But as they start the best-of-three finals at The Gabba on Sunday, Mahela Jayawardene and Co will still be on the
backfoot against the hosts due to a spate of injuries to their key all-rounders.
Angelo Mathews (L) of Sri Lanka walks back to the dressing room after being run out by MS Dhoni (R) during the one-day international cricket match in Adelaide. Reuters/Regi Varghese
If Farveez Maharoof's back injury during Friday's shocking loss against India in Hobart wasn't concerning enough, two other all-rounders - Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera - broke down during the win against Australia. Mathews suffered a calf injury and Perera hurt his back. It was confirmed on Saturday that Perera has been ruled out for Sunday while Mathews is likely to play as a batsman.
Although Chamara Kapugedera, a specialist batsman, is due to join the squad just in time for the first final, the balance of the team has certainly gone for a toss. It remains to be seen if skipper Jayawardene, who has been impressive in making optimum use of his resources, can get the best out of the players and pull off another upset at The Gabba.
But it's going to be an uphill task for him. Sri Lanka have already been pushed on the backfoot on a seamer-friendly track where they will be forced to include both their specialist spinners in the eleven. And Michael Clarke's return from injury also tilts the balance in the hosts' favour. With showers forecast during the game, it could turn out to be a shortened game as well.
Raring to go
While their opponents struggle to get 11 fit players on the park, Australia have a problem of plenty. With Clarke, who missed his third game of the series — available, Australia may have to drop either David Warner or rookie Peter Forrest from the eleven to make sure the combination is not disturbed. Warner has had a topsy-turvy run so far while Forrest has been impressive in his debut series. If Australia decide to retain both the batsmen, then either Dan Christian, who took a hat-trick on Friday, or Clint McKay, the death-overs specialist, will have to carry drinks.
Irrespective of the teams, one things is clear. With three of the four matches between these two inconsistent teams going to the wire, one can be assured the first final will be as entertaining as their league games.