If you take away the 1996 World Cup final, Australia have been dominant against Sri Lanka in the sport's premier event. As such, the Aussies would be confident of putting it across the Asian side once again. After all, they will be playing on familiar territory, with home support. That's not all, after losing a close encounter to co-hosts New Zealand, they recovered well to hand a record thrashing to Afghanistan. Having said that, Sri Lanka wouldn't be giving in easily as well. After a slow start to the tournament, they have recovered well, and in fact, have only lost two wickets in their last two matches while scoring over 600, an incredible achievement.
While Australia would undoubtedly begin the game as favourites, the surface could play a significant role in deciding the final result. The reports from out in the middle are that the surface at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Sunday is expected to be a dry surface, which will assist spinners more and more as the game progresses. A slow surface is not something Australia have traditionally enjoyed, which is why Sri Lanka should be upbeat about their chances. Unfortunately for the 1996 champions, their best spinner in the team, Rangana Herath, has been ruled out of the key clash due to injury. And so, while Australia might be disappointed with the pitch, the absence of Herath might very well balance out things.
If you take the game against New Zealand out, the Aussies have been in sensational form. David Warner got a brilliant hundred against Afghanistan. The other opener, Aaron Finch, kicked off his World Cup with one against England. Also, everyone from Steven Smith to Glenn Maxwell have been among the runs. Even the out of form George Bailey, who isn't in the playing XI got a half-century against England. It is now time for Michael Clarke to fire. The Aussie skipper, having returned from injury, has spent some time at the crease, but would be itching for a big knock. The news from the Aussie camp is that Shane Watson is likely to return in place of Mitchell Marsh keeping the conditions in mind.
Sri Lanka's batting is equally strong. Both Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan are in excellent form. They have given the team some smashing starts in almost every game. In fact, both Dilshan and Thirimanne have impressive hundreds to show in the series. In even better news for Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara has got brilliant tons in the last two matches, and in fact has been undefeated. The classy left-hander would be keen to make it three in three. Lanka would be hoping for the same, but they would also be praying that the law of averages doesn't catch up with him. Mahela Jayawardene too has a ton in the event, but the middle and lower order haven't got a hit in the last two games, which might work in Australia's favour.
It is in the bowling department that Australia have a significant edge over Sri Lanka. Although the Lankans have won the last two matches handsomely, it has been their batting that has delivered. Their bowling hasn't been up to the mark. Lasith Malinga has been taken for plenty while Suranga Lakmal has been decent at best. Nuwan Kulasekara has had a poor time, which hasn't helped the team's cause. On the other hand, Australia have a much superior bowling attack. Mitchell Starc has been in excellent form while Mitchell Johnson is improving with every game. Faulkner's comeback has boosted the team, and overall they look a better outfit. This is where they could upset Sri Lanka.
--By A Cricket Analyst