After Wednesday's one-wicket loss to Sri Lanka, the Australians will be scratching their heads wondering
what went wrong. Not able to shoot out the opposition at 107 for 8 is indeed very demoralising.
The have now lost six internationals in a row since July and a little over a fortnight away from the Ashes, it is a distraught position to be in. This losing streak is their worst since the 1996-97 season when they lost to Pakistan and the West Indies. For now though, they must find a way to pull themselves together at Sydney, or else the Lankans will walk away with their first series win Down Under.
What the Aussies have going for them is that Ponting will lead again after missing the previous match due to grandmother's death. His return to the top of the order will no doubt, boost the batting as well.
Given Australia's dismal bowling display against Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga, the side could see a few changes before the big game on Friday. The injured Shaun Marsh will be out, while Callum Ferguson will get a game, as will Nathan Hauritz who would be the likely choice to replace the wounded Steven Smith. It's also probable that the speedster Mitchell Starc will be included in the side.
Sri Lanka for their part, know that they are on the threshold of a historic series victory. But there's still work to be done, especially in the batting and fielding departments, which captain Kumara Sangakarra pointed unfavourably to. The outstanding efforts of Mathews and Malinga should not cover up for the shoddy performance at the top and middle of the order. The selection of shots from the some of the more experiences batsmen was inadequate, some were nothing more than cross-batted swats.
Among the key-men for Australia stands Xavier Doherty. The new-comer impressed greatly with his 4 for 46 on debut in Wednesday's match, causing numerous problems for the Lankan batsmen. He modulated his pace cleverly and spun deceptively. The Sydney conditions are also conducive for his sort of slow left arm.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan to beware of is Lasith Malinga who showed on Wednesday that he is no mug with the bat, while anyway being a strike bowler. He is notorious for his slinging, speedy action, but his slower ball is equally troubling, which is what Shane Watson fell prey to.
So the die is cast for a scintillating game of cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. One will have to wait and see if the Aussies can stage a fight-back or if the Sri Lankans will prevail in a historic turn.