Australia tackle Sri Lanka at The Oval today for the last semifinal spot of the Champions Trophy in a game which should mark a fitting end to the group stages.
The defending champions are still seeking their first win of the competition while the Lankans resurrected their campaign with a morale boosting win over hosts England.
But I don’t think this gives Sri Lanka any psychological edge. They certainly looked a much better side than in their opener against New Zealand but I thought Australia too were on course for a win against the Kiwis when rain intervened eventually leading to the game being called off.
Both teams have enjoyed success against each other in their recent outings and so we should see another close game.
Australia surely haven’t enjoyed the ideal preparation heading into such a crucial game due to the aftermath of the David Warner incident with Joe Root.
The whole affair has been very disappointing even if Warner has suffered the consequences for his actions. The harmony within the dressing room appears to have been disturbed as it’s been reported that Shane Watson expressed his displeasure at the management’s lack of action against Warner initially.
All said and done, this shouldn’t make up any excuse for Australia, and I expect the players will all be focused on nothing but the match once they take the field.
I also dismiss the theory that an early Champions Trophy exit could have an adverse bearing on the Australian camp so close to the Ashes.
With the exception of three to four players, the Test team wears a different look to the ODI squad, so today’s result should have no impact on the upcoming Test duel with England. Of course, a win today would surely go a long way to uplifting everyone’s spirits after a rough few days.
Michael Clarke has been missed more for his batting than his leadership as I think George Bailey has done a decent job as stand-in skipper so far.
His leadership qualities aside, Clarke has been Australia’s best batsman in the last 18 months or so and his absence leaves a lot of runs to be replaced.
Australia will also know exactly what they need to do against Sri Lanka to reach the semis based on the outcome of the England-New Zealand tie. I expect they will go in with the same eleven that faced New Zealand, although, with the Lankans having quite a few left-handers in their lineup, it might be worth bringing Mitchell Starc back in for Xavier Doherty.