An 87-run win might look comfortable on paper for Australia, but their fourth win in five starts at the Cricket World Cup against Sri Lanka was anything but.
While the pitch at The Oval in London was hard to get a read on from the outset, seemingly a little slow and two-paced, Australia were sent in to bat first and made it look a lot harder than it needed to be early on.
Even though captain Aaron Finch picked up where he left off in Taunton, David Warner (26 off 48) and Usman Khawaja (10 off 20) both struggled to get going, and against some quality Sri Lankan bowling, had left their team in a hole at 2 for 100.
Finch, however, was having no such problems, having taken a liking to Lasith Malinga during his opening spell and playing the spin of Dhanajaya de Silva quite well.
The Aussie captain finally found a willing ally in Steve Smith and the pair set about building a potentially match-winning partnership.
Smith barely took a risk in his innings, but simply fed the strike to Finch, who crossed his century and started to motor, taking it out on a Sri Lankan attack who didn’t bowl poorly, but simply weren’t consistent enough to build any pressure.
Finch eventually fell for 153 from 132 balls, before Smith followed him the following over for 73 from 59. The timing was hardly what Australia wanted, leaving them with two fresh batsmen at the crease with just 39 balls remaining in the innings, but the score of 4 for 278 meant a strong platform had been built.
While Australia left some runs on the ground thanks for to some excellent death bowling from Malinga and Isuru Udana, Glenn Maxwell’s 46 off 25 motored Australia to a commanding 7 for 334.
Maxwell would have a major role to play with the ball as well following an start to the run chase at breakneck speed.
While Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera were helped along by some awful short bowling from Australia’s four quicks, who all got a crack during the powerplay, they made the most of it, playing with excellent intent and looking to put every bad ball away.
By the end of the powerplay, Sri Lanka were sitting pretty with no wickets lost and the highest powerplay total of the tournament, having 87 runs on the board.
However, the Lions didn’t stick to their guns and struggled to get Maxwell away once he came into the attack. Combined with a couple of wickets starting to fall, Australia clawed their way back into the game.
Maxwell was the pick of the bowlers despite not taking a wicket, finishing the ten overs for the fifth bowler with 0 for 46 from his ten.
While the quicks continued to struggle, there was more good than bad during the second half of the innings, with Sri Lanka letting the asking rate simply get too high before Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc were brought back inside the final 20 overs to wrap things up.
Karunaratne would accelerate on to 97 from 108 balls, but even the back end of his innings became bogged down, and with a regular fall of wickets in the tail, the last ten or so overs of the game always felt like a matter of when, not if, Australia would confirm their spot at the top of the Cricket World Cup table ahead of their next clash on Thursday with Bangladesh.
Australia: 7/334 (50) (Aaron Finch 153, Steve Smith 73, Glenn Maxwell 46*, Dhananjaya de Silva 2/40, Isuru Udana 2/57) defeat Sri Lanka 10/247 (45.5) (Dimuth Karunaratne 97, Kusal Perera 52, Mitchell Starc 4/55, Kane Richardson 3/47) by 87 runs
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