After completing an emphatic 3-0 whitewash in the test series, Australia prepare for the first of five One Day Internationals against Sri Lanka (3.20 am GMT, Friday).
The home side remain strong but with Mike Hussey retired and skipper Michael Clarke on the side lines with a hamstring issue, can the tourists take advantage of a depleted line up?
Sri Lanka are stronger in the limited overs arena but many of the squad featured in the demoralising test series defeat. Confidence will be low and that factor alone will play a major part in the outcome of this contest.
The tourists’ chances will increase thanks to the presence of Lasith Malinga. The pace bowler’s participation had been in some doubt due to continuing commitments in the Big Bash T20 but the close proximity of this match to his Melbourne club camp should ensure that he makes the starting XI.
Malinga combines economy with prolific wicket taking and his presence will give the remainder of the bowling attack a much needed boost. Alongside Malinga, Rangana Herath retains his place after bizarre rumours of his death began to circulate earlier this week. Happily, the left arm spinner is alive and well and will provide another key to Sri Lankan success in this opening game.
In the absence of their usual skipper, Australia will be led by George Bailey who will bring experience but is unlikely to add the weight of runs that Michael Clarke would provide.
Those runs will have to come from a fairly new look top order that includes Phil Hughes, who will make his one day debut in this match. Hughes can be a destructive left hander who seems to have dealt with a perceived weakness outside off stump to return to his best form.
Elsewhere, several players have been rewarded for good performances in the Big Bash League with Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Brad Haddin called into the squad after powerful displays with their respective teams.
Ultimately, the game could come down to a battle between Sri Lanka’s bowlers and this talented yet relatively inexperienced Australian side.
The hosts’ bowling attack also features a number of players who have enjoyed a good summer in the domestic T20. Spinners Steve Smith and Xavier Doherty earn recalls while the line-up will be led by left arm pacemen Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson.
Sri Lanka’s batting order will miss the runs and the experience of the injured Kumar Sangakkara but they include the prolific Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan. As a result, we shouldn’t expect the low totals that we saw from the tourists in the test series.
Australia are obvious favourites in this match but this should certainly be a closer contest than we saw in the five day games. It won’t be a 5-0 whitewash but expect Australia to edge this opener before the tourists discover their form later in the series.
This Preview’s Betting Tip: Australia to win at 4/7 with Stan James.