Australia eye series win as Sri Lanka look to draw level

After rain washed away their chances to take an unassailable 2-0 lead at Pallekelle, Michael Clarke and his men now find themselves needing to draw or win in Colombo to take the series.

updated: September 15, 2011 10:59 IST
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Colombo: Sri Lanka have been outplayed during this series but they could still escape with honours even, if they find a way to win at the SSC. Australia's 1-0 lead would likely have become 2-0 had rain and bad light not intervened in Pallekele. Instead, Michael Clarke and his men now find themselves needing to draw or win in Colombo to take the series. It won't be as easy as it appears. The SSC has been renowned for flat, batsman-friendly pitches in recent years, but draws haven't been the only result on offer. Of the past 17 SSC Tests, only four have been drawn and Sri Lanka have been beaten just once. The triumphant team? Ricky Ponting's Australians in 2004.

Ponting will be back in Australia's side at No.3, having missed the Pallekele Test for the birth of his child. Usman Khawaja has been confirmed as the unlucky batsman who will make way for Ponting. Khawaja had good form behind him, having made a century in the tour match, but Shaun Marsh's debut hundred made him an irresistible prospect. There will also be a change in the attack, with Ryan Harris left out due to his hamstring problem, and Peter Siddle included. One thing that won't change is Australia's attitude: they will not be playing for a draw. "Our mindset must be the same," Clarke wrote in his Daily Telegraph column on Thursday. "Not one of us is in a position to take our foot off the pedal or start taking things for granted because the team has had a couple of good games."

Sri Lanka's strong record at the SSC should not be under-estimated, regardless of their recent form, and there will be extra incentive for the hosts to lift this time around. Kumar Sangakkara, not only one of the finest batsmen in the world but also one of cricket's greatest ambassadors, is playing his 100th Test. Four Sri Lankans have reached that mark before Sangakkara and Sri Lanka won every one of those milestone matches. The hosts will regain Rangana Herath, but most importantly they need some big runs from their top order.

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