Sri Lanka chases final berth

Friday, 2 March 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky when they face Australia in Friday’s final Commonwealth Bank Series group game in Melbourne.

Tuesday’s shocking defeat to India means Sri Lanka have to beat Australia for the third time in the competition to guarantee themselves a place in the finals against the hosts.

Mahela Jayawardene’s side looked certain to lock up their final berth earlier this week after making 320 for four from their 50 overs against India.

However, they could then only look on as Virat Kohli masterminded a miraculous chase which saw India easily achieve the required target in just 36.4 overs.

Sri Lanka, who are level on 15 points with India in the table but have a worse head-to-head record against Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men, must now get something out of Friday’s clash with Australia to ensure they reach the finals ahead of the Indians.

The good news for Sri Lanka is that Australia might be without captain Michael Clarke.

Clarke, whose batting has improved vastly this season after a poor spell of form, is still nursing a hamstring problem and may be rested with his side already into the three-match finals.

Shane Watson is in line to take over the captaincy, with chairman of selectors John Inverarity admitting Clarke is a doubt for Friday.

He told Sky Sports News: “One of the uncertainties at the moment is still Michael Clarke’s fitness.

“We think he’s going to be okay for Friday, but we’re certainly going to have a low-risk strategy.

“If he’s ‘just about right’, I don’t think we’ll play him. But I think he’ll be okay.”

Clarke won the Allan Border Medal for the third time this week after scoring more than 2,000 runs in Tests and one-dayers during the 12-month voting period, but is still targeting further improvements.

“There are a few areas I continually work on, a lot of it based around my defence, trying to keep that as solid as possible,” he told the Herald Sun.“Whatever the form of the game, the first 10 or 20 balls are the most crucial. That’s the time you manage to get out a lot so I work to tighten my defence to give myself the best chance to bat for long periods.”