The game between Australia and Sri Lanka at Sydney produced some superlative batting performances from either side. There two hundreds contrasting hundreds, one from an Aussie and another from a Sri Lankan. Three Aussies scored half centuries, and there were two from the Sri Lankan side as well. In the end though, it was one knock that stood out as the massive difference. Glenn Maxwell had missed a few hundreds before this, but on Sunday, he translated his spectacular form into three figures, and his savage assault on the Sri Lankan bowling took Australia to a score that was out of the Lankans’ reach in spite of a spirited chase by Angelo Mathews’ men.
Although the final margin of 64 runs may translate to an easy win for the Aussies, it was mainly because Maxwell got his runs at such a blistering pace that Australia could build a total that was beyond formidable. Had it not been for him Australia might have finished somewhere around 330-340, and Sri Lankan would have been under lesser pressure, aware that they had put together similar totals in the last two games, once while batting first and another time while chasing. However, those 40 extra runs forced the Lankans to take more risks than they would have liked.
While Maxwell was certainly the star of the show, a few other puzzles also fell in place for the Aussies at Sydney. Before the game, skipper Michael Clarke would have been itching to get among the runs, and he did the same. His fluent half-century was instrumental in Australia’s recovery, along with another one from Steven Smith, after the hosts had gotten off to an uncertain start losing both their openers cheaply. Clarke’s innings ensured Australia would head into the knockouts aware that their skipper is back among the runs.
Shane Watson’s lack of form was another big headache for the Aussies. That also has been alleviated to an extent as he cruised to a half-century on comeback. Australia made a smart move to bat him at number six. With Maxwell in full flow, Watson did not have the pressure of scoring quickly, and he responded with a good supporting hand that would augur well for the Aussies. In the bowling department, Mitchell Starc continued to impress, but the ease with which Mitchell Johnson was toyed with not for the first time in the World Cup will certainly worry them. Watson too went for plenty, which means Australia have work to do in the bowling.
Sri Lanka, as well, suffered because of their bowlers. Except for Lasith Malinga no one could exercise any sort of control with the ball. They clearly missed Rangana Herath as the spinners as well as pacers were torn apart with ease. To their credit, Sri Lanka were once again brilliant with the bat. Kumar Sangakkara again demonstrated his genius with a record-breaking third consecutive World Cup ton. Tillakaratne Dilshan also continued his good form although Lanka would have wanted another hundred from him. They were also unlucky that Dinesh Chandimal got injured in the midst of a spectacular counter-assault. In the end, despite their best efforts, Lanka couldn’t override the Maxwell factor.
--By A Cricket Analyst