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Australia into Semi-Finals After Easily Beating Sri Lanka

World Cup Cricket News 08/03/03

Report By Jon Cocks

Despite a magnificent 92 from 94 balls by 1996 Cup hero Aravinda de Silva, Sri Lanka (223) was blown off Centurion Park in the first of the 2003 Super Sixes, losing by 96 runs to a rampant Australian team. No other Sri Lankan batsman was able to exceed 21, as Australia followed a dominant batting display with a clinical exhibition with the ball.

Winning the toss and batting, Australia shrugged off any residual disappointment at losing both Jason Gillespie and Andy Symonds through injury to post an imposing 5-319 after fifty overs. Given a flying start on an excellent batting wicket with a fast outfield by Adam Gilchrist (99 from 88), the innings was anchored by a brilliant 114 (109) from Ponting, with excellent support from Martyn (52 from 58).

Gilchrist and Hayden (22) appeared to have Vaas (8-0-59-0), Guneratne (6-0-46-0) and the Sri Lankans intimidated at the start. Hesitation in the field caused them to miss a possible runout in Guneratne’s first over. The Australian openers were soon into their stride, with eleven coming from the fifth over, with the fifty coming in the eighth.

Aravinda (5-0-36-0) was the first of four slow men introduced in an attempt to take the pace off the ball. He took the tenth over - during which Gilchrist hit a boundary to raise his 5000th ODI run - and Muralitharan (10-0-47-1) the eleventh.

For the next couple of overs, the fireworks were on hold, as Hayden pushed forward, missed a straight one from Murali for Tillakaratne to accept the rebound from the pad. Umpire Bowden raised his finger, just when it appeared he had waited too long to possibly allow the appeal and Australia was unlucky to lose its first wicket for 75.

Rotating his bowlers, Jayasuriya tried and discarded Arnold (2-0-21-0), but not before Gilchrist thrashed him through to the cover rope to bring up his fifty. The 100 came from the first ball after the fifteen over restrictions were lifted and the acceleration continued, as the Sri Lankan finger spinners were unable to contain the batsmen.

Aravinda relieved Muraltharan, only to watch Gilchrist smack him down the ground for yet another boundary. Next over, Gilchrist pulled Arnold into the mid wicket crowd and flat-batted a straighter six, prompting Jayasuriya to bring Dilhara Fernando (9-0-47-3) to the crease. Very little changed as the fifty partnership whistled by like the view of a road sign on a highway from a fast-moving car.

Muralitharan put a doosra past Ponting, but Sangakkara failed to dislodge the bails altogether while Ponting was over-balancing and missed a regulation stumping. He missed the stumps again next over, bowled by Jayasuriya (10-0-59-0). He took a ball coming in from the outfield and failed this time to run Ponting out on his first attempt.

Successive boundaries took Gilchrist into the nineties and Ponting smashed Jayasuriya for six, raising the hundred partnership before thirty overs. Gilchrist was dropped on 96, but not too expensively, as he was run out by a brilliant direct hit from Chaminda Vaas in the outfield, ending a brilliant second wicket stand of 106 with Ponting.

No momentum was lost, as Martyn began rotating the strike and Ponting on drove Vaas for two sixes. Martyn managed six – with four overthrows – from a push to mid on. The boundaries flowed as Ponting raised his 12th ODI century (6 fours and 4 sixes). His dismissal, caught Sangakkara from Dilhara ended the third wicket partnership at 112, far too late for Sri Lankan purposes. Lehmann (10) and Martyn sacrificed their wickets in the quest for quick late runs.

The Sri Lankan reply began positively enough, although McGrath (9.3-1-25-2) allowed no room for strokeplay as usual and Lee (10-1-52-3) zeroed in on the ribcage at 150+kph. Disaster befell Sri Lanka as Lee struck Jayasuriya on the arm, necessitating a trip to hospital that ultimately cleared him of a break, but robbed the Sri Lankans of their captain’s contribution at the crease.

Attapattu (16) and Tillakaratne (21) battled away for most of the first fifteen overs, but then they lost 4-6 to end any chance of a realistic challenge to the mountainous Australian total. Lee began the rot with a great return catch off Attapattu and followed up almost at once with the out-of-form Jayawardene (0) edging to Gilchrist. McGrath clean-bowled Tillakaratne and Lee trapped Arnold (1) LBW. Sangakkara (20) was lucky to survive an LBW shout from the very next ball that struck his back leg plumb in front.

Aravinda survived a confident LBW shout from Lee and a difficult chance to Hayden at point before he had scored. With the knowledge that experience brings he knew it was his day, if not Sri Lanka’s, playing an innings of masterly strokeplay and deft touch to give the afternoon crowd some entertainment before the inevitable Australian victory. He finally got off the mark by pulling Bichel for six and driving him for a four.

Harvey (7-0-29-0) and Bichel (7-1-32-0) took over, the latter a little below par after his heroics at Port Elizabeth against England. Aravinda and Sangakkara tried to push the runrate on, but the relentless fielding pressure applied the clamps and the inevitable suffocating runrate pressure broke most remaining Sri Lankan resistance. Brad Hogg broke the fifth wicket stand of 53 with a magnificent pickup and direct hit to send Sangakkara (20) on his way.

By the time Hogg (9-1-45-2) and Darren Lehmann (5-0-26-1) bowled a few overs in tandem, the lone hand of Aravinda had become a batting clinic, as he worked Bichel and Harvey on both sides of the wicket and looked to punish the slow left-armers. He was running out of partners, though, as Hogg trapped Vaas (21) LBW and Lehmann drew the slog from Muralitharan (4) that was taken at mid off by Lee.

Aravinda hit out defiantly at Lee, slamming him into the onside crowd to dent what were very tidy figures with 25 from his last two overs. However, in his next over Hogg swallowed the return catch from the Sri Lankan maestro in the twilight of a great career, and it fell to Glenn McGrath to snuff out further resistance in the 48th and final over, when he trapped Dilhara (9) LBW.

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