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Australia battling for Twenty20 survival

Shane Watson is expected to play his first game of the Twenty20 World Championship in Cape Town on Thursday as Australia head into their must-win clash with Sri Lanka minus their skipper.

Ricky Ponting has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament and is in doubt for Australia's one-day tour of India starting next week after suffering a hamstring strain in his side's six-wicket loss to Pakistan on Tuesday.

The defeat set-up a winner-takes-all meeting between Australia and Sri Lanka - their first since the one-day World Cup final in April - with a place in the semi-finals of the tournament at stake.

If Australia win, they will likely meet South Africa in Durban in the second semi-final on Saturday (Sunday AM AEST), with the host nation near certainties to claim top spot in their Super Eights group.

A defeat will send the pre-tournament favourites crashing out of the competition, with Sri Lanka sneaking through to the final four.

Watson has been sidelined with a hamstring strain the past two weeks, but has been cleared to play by team physio Alex Kountouris.

The allrounder is expected to slot into the middle order - with Brad Hodge likely to bat at No.3 for Ponting - and add some depth to the bowling with Australia set to feature a five-pronged pace attack.

Andrew Symonds admits the loss of Ponting is a big blow, but believes Australia has the depth to cover for the skipper.

"You lose the best player in the world it's going to leave a bit of a hole I would have thought," Symonds said.

"But Shane Watson seems to have recovered really well from his hamstring injury and he played terrifically well at the World Cup, so he may come in and play a bit of a helpful role with the bowlers as well.

"There's blokes there that can handle the situation, hopefully we'll be able to put up a good show.

"We've had some great tussles with Sri Lanka over the years and the rivalry has built up and it's fairly healthy."

The game begins at 10am local time (6pm AEST).

There remains a slight possibility Australia could overtake pool leaders Pakistan to top group F - and play their semi-final in Cape Town - if they beat Sri Lanka.

But that would require Pakistan - who are already guaranteed a semis berth - to lose heavily in their final Super Eights match against Bangladesh, which follows the Australia-Sri Lanka encounter.

South Africa play India in Durban in the late game - the last of the Super Eights stage.

The tournament hosts will wrap up top spot in group E with victory, with New Zealand then going through as the second-placed team.

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