Australia moved on to The Oval, the ground from which the geometric shape gets its name. Their foe? Sri Lanka, whose cunning strategy of playing primarily in washed out games saw them perched just a point outside of the top four.
Here are the ratings for the World Cup match between Australia and Sri Lanka.
With no prospect of this match being washed out, Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne was forced to head out to the middle to face Aaron Finch for the coin toss.
He needn’t have worried. Going into the match, Aaron Finch had lost eight tosses in a row, and he continued the trend here.
One might at first think that this trend is perhaps part of Australia’s ongoing bid to redeem their international reputation as a bunch of tossers. But, of course, it’s just as improbable to lose nine coin tosses in a row as it is to win them, which surely opens up the prospect of Australian coin skullduggery.
Furthermore, losing coin tosses consistently doesn’t mean you’re not a tosser. It just means that you’re an awful tosser. Which is exactly the kind of notoriety that Australia is looking to shed. Finch needs to think this through further.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka, having won the toss, immediately elected to misfield.
Australia’s Top Order
Sri Lanka’s fielding was dreadful, giving up plenty of runs to the Australian batsmen. For example, that thing modern teams do, where one fielder races around the boundary, dives and scoops the ball to a nearby teammate in one motion, who in turn hurls the ball back in to the keeper? Sri Lanka botched that on more than one occasion.
It was sloppy stuff, and it allowed David Warner and Aaron Finch to put on 80 for the first wicket from 16.4 overs. Warner made 26 from 48 deliveries in that opening partnership, and again struggled for timing with the bat.
However, in the process, he also became the top scorer in the tournament. David Warner scoring the most runs in the World Cup in the incorrect way is perfectly emblematic of Australia’s ongoing tendency to win matches in the World Cup in the incorrect way. But more on that later.
Warner was eventually overtaken at the top of the World Cup run-scoring table by Aaron Finch, who blasted his way to 153 from 132 balls, including fifteen fours and five sixes.
Finch was at The Oval to hit boundaries and chew gum. And he wasn’t out of either.
Australia’s Middle Order
As has become the trend in this World Cup, after Australia had set a solid platform for the innings, they immediately settled into a nice little period of incomprehensible deceleration.
Historically, a decent rule of thumb for a team’s final total is to take the score after thirty overs and double it. Australia seem to be looking to become the first side in ODI history to achieve their final total by taking the thirty over score and halving it.
The only thing standing in their way against such a groundbreaking feat is, of course, one Glenn Montgomery Maxwell, who in this innings came to the crease and made 46* from 25 balls to ensure Australia reached 7/334. Not the 350+ they might have made, but more than the solid 300 that Shaun Marsh had seemed determined to reach.
In reply, Sri Lanka openers Karunaratne and Kusal Perera flew from the blocks, bringing up the team fifty in the seventh over and the hundred in the thirteenth. Jason Behrendorff had 0/32 from three overs. Pat Cummins had 0/25 from his three. Starc 0/13 from two. And Kane Richardson skilfully augmented his 0/23 from three overs with a wasted review that later denied Maxwell an LBW.
Perera was in complete control, bringing up his half-century in 33 balls, as Sri Lanka threatened to make the chase interesting.
Mitchell Marsh, who had flown to England to be on standby to replace the injured Marcus Stoinis was now officially on standby for the entire bowling attack should some ‘misfortune’ happen to befall them.
But Finch didn’t panic. He threw the ball to Mitchell Starc, who proceeded to bowl a 145km/h yorker that crashed off Perera’s pads and into his middle stump.
From there, Sri Lanka fell steadily off the run rate. Maxwell strangled them with a ten-over spell that cost just 46 runs. Starc continued to take wickets, finishing with 4/55 and eventually Sri Lanka ran out of batsmen, with Dhananjaya de Silva reduced to farming the strike in the final overs to minimise the net run rate damage.
Australia, with their three steadying number threes, an opener who can’t get going and only one specialist batsman capable of the kind of late innings acceleration most other teams take for granted, had won again. Despite also having no all-rounders fit to play and continually forgetting to pick a spinner.
In the process, they’d inexplicably gone to the top of the World Cup table.
Now all they need is for Warner to find some rhythm and form.
Oh, and Marsh.
Not to mention Zampa.
And, of course, Richardson, Behrendorff and Coulter-Nile.
Then they might be dangerous.