The ODI encounters between Australia and Sri Lanka do prove one thing that Sri Lanka are a formidable force at home. They have won 11 out of 19 matches played between the two sides in Sri Lanka with just six going Australia's way.
However, this overwhelming edge at home goes for a toss when they meet the World Champions either in Australia or on neutral grounds. Here they have won just eight times in 43 meetings. The success rate of only 19 per cent.
So despite their tremendous bowling attack, which some feel is at par with Australia, if not better, the odds will be heavily staked against them in Monday's encounter. And the one man who will be absolutely critical towards bringing about a turnaround in their chances will be veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya. He will continue to mesmerize the connoisseurs with his breath-taking assaults on bowlers the world over.
It may appear surprising but Jayasuriya, despite all his exploits at the World Cups including over 1000 runs in 33 appearances, has been an underperformer against Australia.
In his four appearances against the World Champions, which include three as opener and one in the middle order, he has yet to aggregate 50 runs.
However, Jayasuriya's costliest lapse against Australia occurred in the semifinal of the last World Cup at Port Elizabeth. Faced with an ordinary looking target of 213, Sri Lanka needed an explosive start from the then captain Jayasuriya. However, the southpaw could only manage 17 runs before offering an easy catch to Symonds off the bowling of McGrath. Incidentally, that knock has been his highest against Australia in World Cups!
In fact, even in the last VB series in Australia two months ago, after making a tremendous 114 against the World Champions, Jayasuriya came up with just 31 runs in the next four innings against them. This sub-par performance of the star batsman never allowed Sri Lanka the start they needed to win the series despite being 1-0 up in the best of three finals.
If Jayasuriya does click, it will take care of the initial blows that Australia invariably deliver against Sri Lanka in the World Cups. Usually, the Sri Lankans lose their first two wickets by the time 50 are on board. Twice they have lost four.
Average Partnership of Sri Lanka against Australia for various wickets
(Since 1992 World Cup)
The 1996 World Cup final was no exception when chasing a target of 242, Sri Lanka had lost their first two wickets Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana for just 23 on board before the combined genius of Gurusinha, Arvinda de Silva and skipper Ranatunga took Lanka to safety and the Cup.
But this time, in this psychological battle before a possible semifinal or final clash, Jayasuriya will need to fire. He is no longer the Young Turk with seniors to take care of a possible collapse against Australia. He is one man who can single-handedly change the complexion of a game.
Jayasuriya's pyrotechnics will compensate for the initial blows that the Australia is most likely to deliver with the firepower at their disposal. However, if he fails, it will be more easy for the Australians to strangulate Sri Lanka's middle order.