If there’s a lesson for Trevor Hohns and
his fellow Australian selectors from last night’s 51-run loss to a resurgent Sri Lanka,
it is the transformative effect that the presence of a single player can have
on a team.

Two weeks ago Sri Lankan veteran opener
Sanath Jayasuriya aggravated a shoulder injury after slipping
in the shower
, an injury so silly it sounds like the prelude to a dirty
joke, at a time when his team was at a low ebb during its disastrous tour of New Zealand. During his convalescence, Sri Lanka
arrived in Australia to a 116-run thrashing from the home side, then defeated a
complacent opposition when South Africa turned out in Brisbane with “We Beat Australia” hangovers.

For the first time in several months, Sri Lanka
must have felt like the one-day champions of ten years ago. And then two days
ago Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the 1996 World Cup heroes, got off a plane in Sydney.
When it
comes to motivation, Jayasuriya’s scorching 114 from 96 balls is the
kind of innings that makes him the key to Sri Lankan success.

If there’s a key to Australian success in
one-day matches, it’s Glenn McGrath. There are very few other bowlers in the
world who can put more pressure on an opposition with his brand of tight,
accurate, consistent medium-pace bowling.

Certainly there were none wearing yellow at
the SCG yesterday. McGrath’s replacement, Nathan Bracken, is a fine
first-change pace bowler but lacks McGrath’s ability to draw batsmen into false
strokes by consistently giving them nothing to hit. Hopes and Dorey between
them gave away 100 runs in ten overs, Dorey suffering cricket’s newest
indignity of being substituted out of the game by captain Ricky Ponting halfway
through his spell.

Although Australia’s
slow bowlers (Clarke, Symonds and Hogg) worked hard to retrieve the situation,
by then the lack of pressure on the Sri Lankan top order, and especially
Jayasuriya, had allowed the Lions’ newly restored confidence to take them over
310 and by then the horse had bolted, dragging Australia’s
selection policy behind it.