Cricket Tri-Series Final: Sri Lanka and Australia Set Up for Classic in Adelaide
An opening partnership that almost reached 200 runs put Sri Lanka on course to an easy victory in the second final of the Tri-Series in Australia. A ton from Tillakaratne Dilshan helped the visitors tie the series in just 44 overs after centuries from Michael Clarke and David Warner had set a decent target of 271.
Reviving the tournament after a three-year hiatus has proven to be a great decision, and the final has been a fittingly exciting end to the month-long event.
As Sri Lanka and Australia prepare for the deciding Game 3 in Adelaide tomorrow, we look ahead at what could be an enthralling match.
Australia may have won the 12-match group stage of the tournament, but that doesn't mean they should necessarily be the favourites against Sri Lanka tomorrow.
Sri Lanka has won six of its last eight matches against the Aussies Down Under and is 4-2 against them in the Tri-Series tournament. So if there is any psychological advantage, it's likely not the home team that has it.
Then again, they are the home team, and that always counts for something. Also, consider that this is the fourth time in the tournament's history the final has gone to the deciding third game. On each of the previous three occasions, Australia won, beating South Africa in 1994 and 1998, and Sri Lanka six years ago.
David Warner has been spectacular in the first two games. In his first 18 career ODIs, his highest score had been 74 against South Africa last October. In the first final, he more than doubled that, slugging a brilliant 163 to carry Australia to the victory.
In the second game, he managed to follow that up with a knock of 100. However, he took 140 deliveries on the way to his century; Australia can't afford to be that conservative in their attack.
The hosts will be without Michael Clarke. The captain's determination to bat through injury in an attempt to win the series yesterday was commendable, as was his gutsy score of 117. However, his efforts proved futile as Sri Lanka forced Game 3.
It could prove costly, as hamstring strains in both legs will sideline him tomorrow and perhaps for the upcoming series against the West Indies too.
Sri Lanka's Batting
Sri Lanka have had the perfect batting attack for this tournament, understanding the power-play rules and being suitably aggressive.
Compare the first 10 overs yesterday. Australia's opening pair of Warner and Matthew Wade were patient in the early going and, after Shane Watson replaced Wade, they sauntered to a casual 39-1.
Sri Lanka took a totally different approach. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene were much more proactive, dancing around the crease, taking their shots when they were available and making them even when they weren't. After 10 overs, they had almost doubled Australia's total, at 74. The opening partnership wasn't broken up until it had put up 179 runs.
Australia's bowling has been far from great and if it is similarly poor again tomorrow, this Sri Lankan order will pick them apart.
For all the offensive heroics we have seen from both teams, their fielding has been comically inept at times. Drops are part of the game, but you need to make some catches eventually.
One culprit has come under heavy fire for his performances in recent matches. Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade has put down a catch in each of the last two games.
The Aussies were poor with the ball in the second game, as evidenced by the ease with which their opponents chased down their target of 271. Brett Lee bowled three wides in a single over and what could have been a key catch on Jayawardene was nullified on a no-ball.
They need to be better tomorrow but will have to do it without fast bowler James Pattinson, who is out with a strained glute muscle. Nathan Lyon or Ben Hilfenhaus could replace him. Lee has a broken foot, but will still play.
Injuries are also affecting the Sri Lankans. Paceman Lasith Malinga took three wickets in the second game, but will have to play through a groin strain in the decider. His performance in key situations has hidden somewhat his inconsistency in the tournament. Tillakaratne Dilshan has been their most efficient bowler in the finals series, holding Australia to fewer than four runs an over.