Australia are left playing for nothing but pride in the fifth and final One Day International after Sri Lanka opened up an unassailable 3-1 lead on Tuesday.
The Aussies have had a series to forget as Sri Lanka picked up a four-run victory in Colombo to wrap up the series, but they would at least like to go down fighting.
That is hard to do with a crippling injury list that has seen them lose a number of key players. But credit has to go to Sri Lanka for picking up their first ODI series win against Australia since 2010.
Sri Lanka set Australia a solid target of 259 to win the match and level the series. They were in with a shout at 4-189 in the 36th over. But not for the first time in this series they collapsed to 254 all out.
Soon Australia will turn focus to a two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, but first they need to try and rescue a bit of pride by pulling the ODI series back to 3-2.
What: Sri Lanka v Australia, fifth One Day International
Where: Colombo, Sri Lanka
When: 19:00 (AEST), Friday 24th June, 2022
Odds: Sri Lanka 6/4, Australia 8/15
Missed opportunities cost Aussies
Australia have once again struggled to cope with a fearsome spin attack on the subcontinent but they did have their chances throughout the series and did not take them.
If they are to have any chance of winning the fifth ODI they will need to form some solid partnerships in the batting order.
On too many occasions this series Australian batsmen have got themselves in, but have then struggled to go on and put on a big score.
However in the fourth ODI opening batsman David Warner finally came to the party with an impressive knock of 99 runs off 112 balls, which included 12 fours.
The problem being he could not find anyone to hang around with him long enough. Opening partner Finch went for a duck then Mitch Marsh (26), Marnus Labuschagne (14), Alex Carey (19), Travis Head (27) and Glenn Maxwell (1) all struggled.
If just one of those players had been able to stay with Warner it would have been a different story. And then when Warner himself fell to leave Australia 7-192 it was game over.
Captain Finch admitted that the wickets have been good enough to allow the Aussie batsmen to get in, but building partnerships has cost them.
It is something they will have to improve on if they are to have a chance of winning the ODI World Cup which will be played on similar pitches in India in 2023.
Sri Lanka produce stunning spin display
Despite Australia struggling to build partnerships, plenty of credit has to be given to Sri Lanka and their spin attack that left Finch’s men bamboozled.
They sent down 43 overs of spin in the fourth ODI, and although Australia battled on gamely it eventually all got a bit too much.
The good thing for Australia is they at least should be getting used to it a little. Friday’s match will be the third played on the Colombo pitch and they will know what is coming. But dealing with it will be easier said than done.
Warner scored 99 runs but confessed the Aussies were trying to cope with “extreme spin” that allows no room for error. One mistake and you are out.
“It’s about committing,” Warner said after Tuesday’s loss. “It’s about batting long periods of time. And unfortunately, in the subcontinent, one little mistake will cost you.”
Sri Lanka have fought back really well since losing the opening One Day International. Three wins on the bounce will have them high on confidence and they will be determined to make it 4-1 and go out in real style.
Team news – Travis Head ruled out
Injuries have also not helped Australia on this tour and the curse has struck once again. This time middle-order batsman Head is the victim when suffering a hamstring injury while fielding in the fourth ODI.
It is not thought to be serious but will definitely rule him out of Friday’s game. Not only that he will be a concern ahead of the Test series.
There is good news as Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith are closing in on a return to fitness but they will be saved for the Test series.
It remains to be seen who the selectors will bring in to replace Head on Friday but they do have plenty of options.
Mitchell Swepson is also waiting for his first start of the series and will be hoping to get a chance. The spinner was again overlooked in the fourth ODI and it is hard to fathom why when the pitches are made for spinners.