Title contenders clash in 2007 final replay
March 4, 2011
March 5, Colombo
Start time 2.30 pm (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
The last time Australia were scheduled to take on Sri Lanka in a World Cup match in Colombo was in 1996, when Australia pulled out citing security concerns leading to plenty of rancour even before the tournament started. The last time the two teams did meet in the World Cup was in the final of 2007, when a farcical ruling over bad light provided an inept end to a much-maligned tournament.
Saturday's encounter, nestled somewhere midway through the competition, will lack the drama of either of those two events, and given the utter woefulness of the smaller teams in Group A, will have only a marginal impact on the tournament, though it is being billed as a 'big game'. The four Test nations in the group are near certainties to make the quarters, so any time two of them clash in the league phase, the result is more a battle for how high in the top four they end up, which will decide how tough their quarter-final opponent will be.
One reason to look forward to the match is that in a game increasingly dominated by the bat, where 300 is no longer a safe score, two of the best bowling line-ups in the tournament will face up. On the one hand Sri Lanka have their much-trumpeted, freakish trio of Malinga, Murali and Mendis, and on the other is Australia's old-school fast-and-furious trio of Lee, Tait and Johnson.
The match is also a stage for Sri Lanka to justify their billing as one of the favourites, particularly after defeat to Pakistan. And for Australia, the game is the first big challenge to check how healthy their chances of a fourth straight title are.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLWWW
Watch out for...
Tillakaratne Dilshan has the task of getting Sri Lanka bursting out of the blocks, a job he's accomplished in all three matches this tournament by sprinting to at least 40 each time. Sri Lanka will hope his stand-and-thwack-it method works against the Australian pace battery and takes him to the big score that has eluded him so far.
A few months ago, Brett Lee's international career seemed to be over after being sidelined for a year due to an elbow problem. Not only is he back, but like that other oft-injured tearaway, Shoaib Akhtar, he's showing he's lost none of his pace even in his mid-thirties. He was in cracking form in Australia's previous match, tormenting New Zealand's top order, though he didn't get the handful of wickets his spot-on bowling deserved.
Australia have had a week's rest since thumping New Zealand, so they will be no need to "manage the workload" of any of their players. They are almost certainly going to stick to the same XI.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 David Hussey, 6 Cameron White, 7 Steve Smith, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Jason Krezja, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Shaun Tait.
Sri Lanka have a couple of decisions to make regarding their bowling. Do they persist with Nuwan Kulasekara or bring back the pacy Thisara Perera, who also provides a big-hitting option lower down the order? Also, the second spinners slot 'remains a toss-up between Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Silva, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Pitch and conditions
It pelted down on Friday evening in Colombo, and there's light rain forecast for Saturday as well. If the weather stays clear, the teams will likely have to deal with a sluggish pitch, the same surface that was used for the Kenya-Sri Lanka match. Malinga's explanation of his array of toe-crushers against Kenya: "This is a slow pitch and bouncers will not work so I decided to go for yorkers." Expect more of the same.
Stats and Trivia
- Australia have lost only one of the seven completed World Cup matches against Sri Lanka - the 1996 final
- Ricky Ponting has the most number of World Cup catches (27), more than twice as many as any other current player. The next highest tally of a player in the tournament is Paul Collingwood (13)
- Lasith Malinga has an astonishing World Cup record: 9 matches, 24 wickets at 13.41
"It certainly hasn't spun anywhere near as much [as last time we were in Sri Lanka] and the teams that have batted second have had a bit more of a chance in the game than before."
Ricky Ponting assesses the conditions in Colombo