Sri Lanka had started the series spiritedly, and need to find the same sharpness to prevent a series sweep
Fringe players Kane Richardson, Ashton Agar and Daniel Sams performed well, underlining Australia’s depth in their attack, but the batting has failed to really click this series. Skipper Aaron Finch, who moved down to No. 3 in a bid to arrest a form slump, batted determinedly with 35, but his trademark clean hitting has still been missing.
Australia will be aiming for a complete performance and further dominate a short-handed Sri Lanka, who produced a disappointing effort at Manuka Oval after a gutsy performance earlier. Their batting has been mostly strangled by Australia’s disciplined attack and been too reliant on Pathum Nissanka at the top.
Sri Lanka had bowled and caught well earlier, but rued a sloppy effort in the field in Canberra, where they dropped many chances as the series quickly slipped away from them. The tourists will need to sharpen every aspect of their game, otherwise they could be staring down the barrel of a 5-0 series defeat.
(Last five completed matches; most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLWL
In the spotlight
After being named MVP of the recent BBL season, Ben McDermottwas given an opportunity at the top of the order with David Warner resting. The 27-year-old grabbed his chance in the opening match with his first half-century at international level, but has missed out since, even registering a golden duck in Canberra.
It means McDermott’s overall T20I record is still modest, with an average of 15.66 and strike rate of 96.70 across 18 innings. Given a sustained run at his favoured opening role, the Hurricanes star will be hoping to light up the MCG in a way reminiscent of his belligerent batting in the BBL.
Given Finch’s struggles, McDermott knows he has a couple of opportunities left in this series to apply serious heat on the selectors.
Kusal Mendis was understandably rusty in his return on Tuesday after missing the opening two matches because of Covid-19. He made just 4 from 11 balls and tamely spooned a return catch to Agar. It was his first T20I match since last June, as he copped a lengthy ban for breaching Covid-19 protocols during Sri Lanka’s tour of England mid last year.
Mendis has a middling T20I record, averaging just 18.06 from 30 matches, but his class is undeniable and he shores up a misfiring Sri Lanka batting order. With Australia’s frontline quicks missing, Mendis should fancy his chances of compiling a decent knock, having passed 15 just twice in his last ten T20I innings.
Australia (possible): 1 Ashton Agar, 2 Ben McDermott, 3 Aaron Finch (capt), 4 Josh Inglis, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Daniel Sams, 9 Jhye Richardson, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Kane Richardson
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Jeffrey Vandersay, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Maheesh Theekshana, 11 Shiran Fernando
Pitch and conditions
The pitch is likely to be similar to those used in the BBL, which means plenty of runs on offer. But spinners should be encouraged by the turn and the grip. Melbourne will be cool and cloudy with only a small chance of rain forecast.
Stats and trivia
- Limited-overs matches between the teams have traditionally been well contested at the MCG. Sri Lanka hold a 2-1 record in T20Is, while Australia have an 8-6 edge from 14 ODIs.
- In match three, Agar batted as an opener for the first time in his international career across formats. He once batted at No. 3 in a T20I against New Zealand in 2018.
- Sri Lanka have lost their last nine internationals in Australia – seven T20Is and two Tests. Their last win came in Geelong in 2017.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth