Even in a tournament with nine group-stage matches which allows room for a slip up or two, you don’t want to be 0-3 early in the competition but that’s the situation which will confront one of these teams after they face off in Lucknow in what already shapes as a contest to retain realistic semi-final hopes.
It’s been a tough start for Australia and Sri Lanka, but two points in this fixture will revive belief that they can still challenge for the top four. The struggles of Australia, with their World Cup pedigree, are creating headlines. They were handed a demanding start to the tournament by facing hosts India and a confident South Africa, but they have been significantly off the pace in all three disciplines.
The batting is becoming a concern with no one yet to reach a half century – Australia currently have the lowest batting average of any team in the tournament at 18.80 and have failed to reach 200 in the first two outings.
In ODIs, the most recent meetings between these teams came in mid-2022 in a five-match series when Sri Lanka prevailed 3-2.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLWL
In the spotlight: Adam Zampa and Kusal Mendis
“Don’t think he’s bowled as much in the lead up as he would have in the past,” Finch told ESPNcricinfo. “He’s had neck and shoulder issues, I know he’s got a bit of a hip niggle at the moment, whether that’s just affecting him technically slightly, legspin bowling is not my expertise, but he didn’t bowl his absolute best against India. But you are also bowling against the best players in the world. I think back to the first over he bowled and he got cut for two boundaries, one of them was a good ball, might have hit the top of off stump to KL [Rahu] and it slides past backward point for four, then you are on the back foot because your best ball has been hit for four. You start overthinking it at times and you might stray away from your number one plan.”
Team news: Australia likely unchanged; Sri Lanka need reinforcements
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Mitchell Marsh, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Josh Inglis (wk), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Marcus Stoinis, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins (capt), 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kusal Mendis (capt & wk), 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Dunith Wellalage, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Dilshan Madushanka
Pitch and conditions
The surface got trickier as the match wore on when Australia faced South Africa and it certainly nipped around for the quicks in the second half. That may have a bearing on what the captain who wins the toss decides to do. However, Pat Cummins and Shanaka, before his injury, had won both their tosses, done different things each time, and watched their team get beaten on each occasion. So they may just want to leave it to the other to decide. It’s set to be another hot day.
Stats and trivia
“A lot of Australian teams, when they’re backed into a corner, play their best cricket. We find ourselves in a corner early on in this tournament, but we’ve got to come out and put in a really good performance against Sri Lanka.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo