Champika Fernando at the Oval
The Australians flattened the lacklustre Sri Lankan team with an excellent performance in the field to record an overwhelming 87 run victory in their World Cup fixture here at the Oval grounds yesterday.
A truly remarkable batting display by Aaron Finch and Steve Smith was backed by a brilliant effort with the ball by the Australia bowlers as they restricted the faltering Sri Lankans to 247 chasing a target of 335.
Sri Lanka got off to a flyer, scoring 87 off the first power play, the highest in the tournament so far. Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera showed remarkable grit and resilience in a blistering opening stand of 115 runs off 93 balls before Mitchel Starc flattened Perera’s middle stump with a beauty. He made 52 off 36 balls with five boundaries and a six but his wicket opened floodgates as Sri Lanka’s brittle middle order surrendered meekly in a familiar fashion to leave hundreds of supporters in utter dismay. Karunaratne was magnificent in his 97 off 108 balls—the only silver-lining in an otherwise ghastly performance—but his departure just three runs from a maiden century was the writing on the wall for the Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka refuse to attend press conference
Following their 87-run defeat Sri Lanka yesterday refused to attend the post match press conference - a mandatory requirement under ICC tournament regulations. According to the organizers ICC will take actions for their non compliance with requirements.
Mitchell Starc may have had met harsh treatment early on but came back strongly to pick up three wickets in the space of six balls, leaving Sri Lanka reeling. With four points, Sri Lanka must now win at least three of their last four games to earn one of the four semi-final spots. This does seem beyond their reach as their next four games are against England, India , South Africa and West Indies.
Earlier, Australia stormed to their highest total of this year’s tournament, reaching 334 for 7 on the back of a rapid 178-run stand for the third wicket between skipper Aaron Finch and his predecessor Steve Smith.
Finch, who made a half century in the previous game, powered his way to a swashbuckling 153 off just 132 balls—the third highest score by an Australian in a World Cup, while Smith hit a fluent 73 off 59 balls as they met Sri Lanka’s ragged bowling with relative ease until the 45 over.
The Australians would have gone beyond the 350 run mark, for which they were well set, having scored 78 runs in the six overs between 40 and 45. But they thereon managed just 32 runs for the loss of three wickets as Sri Lanka penetrated their bowling in the death overs.
Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera bowled at a tight line and length with Malinga often executing his toe-crushing yorker to perfection. By then, however, the Australians had put the Lankans on edge, treating them with aggression while listless fielding aided the Aussies in abundance.
It was a truly remarkable batting display by the Finch and Smith as they thrilled a sell-out Kia Oval crowd with some scintillating shots all around the ground. Having survived a leg before appeal on 35 off Nuwan Pardeep, Finch drove and pulled beautifully, smashing five sixes and 15 fours on his way to becoming tournament’s highest scorer with 343 runs at 68.60. The opener reached his century off a six in the 97th ball of his innings and the 150 mark with another six before falling for an Isuru Udana delivery in the 43rdover of their innings. He was soon followed by Smith when Malinga executed a perfect yorker that crashed into the middle stumps ending yet another masterful innings from the former Australian skipper.
Smith who returned to the side, having ended a year in exile following the ball tampering saga last year, continued his sublime form once again, hitting his third half century in the tournament with seven fours and a six. But their departures in quick succession saw a mini collapse before Glenn Maxwell put the finishing touches with a quick-fire 46 off 25 balls to end the innings on a good footing.
Sri Lankan bowlers, particularly Nuwan Pradeep, met the wrath of the Australian batters, giving away 80 runs off his 10 overs while Malinga and Thisara gifted 128 runs between them for the one wicket Malinga picked up in his ten over spell. Pradeep’s last two overs cost 40 runs.
Isuru Udana was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers, claiming two for 57 but his two run-outs in four balls in the penultimate over of the innings helped break the momentum of the Australian innings. Off-spinner Dananjaya de Silva made the first two breakthroughs for the Sri Lankans, bowling David Warner through the gate and Usman Khawaja caught at deep mid-wicket. Milinda Siriwardene who replaced seamer Suranga Lakmal in the playing XI conceded 17 runs off his two overs.
Australia 334 for 7 (Finch 153, Smith 73, Maxwell 46) beat Sri Lanka 247 (Karunaratne 97, Kusal Perera 52, Starc 4-55) by 87 runs