Sydney, March 8:
Glenn Maxwell’s brutal assault proved to the difference between the two sides as hosts Australia defeated Sri Lanka by 64 runs — despite a spirited chase led by Kumar Sangakkara — to become the third team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Sunday.
Maxwell’s blitzkrieg 53-ball 102, his maiden One-Day International (ODI) century, the fastest by an Australian in ODIs and the second fastest ton of World Cups, guided the hosts to racking up an imposing 376/9 in 50 overs in the Pool A match.
Chasing the mammoth total, the islanders were incredibly in contention with wicketkeeper-batsman Sangakkara (104) scoring his 23rd ODI century. In the process, the left-hander became the first individual to hit three centuries on the trot in World Cups, the highest scorer of the current tournament with 372, and the second individual after Sachin Tendulkar to go past 14,000 ODI runs.
Sri Lanka were eventually bowled out for 312 in 46.2 overs. They started the chase beautifully before some thoughtful bowling changes, from the likes of James Faulkner (3/48) and Mitchell Starc (2/29), ensured that Australia held on to the win.
Sangakkara demonstrated class and pedigree as he stroked to a potentially match-winning century before falling at the last hurdle. He was well supported by Tillakaratne Dilshan, who played a brilliant knock of 62 which also included six boundaries in one over, bowled by Aussie pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson (2/62).
The duo struck 130 runs for the second wicket to keep Lanka in the chase after losing opener Lahiru Thirimanne (1) in the second over.
After Dilshan got out (135/2), veteran Mahela Jayawardene (19) joined Sangakkara. However, both their wickets, in a span of 13 runs, eroded Sri Lanka’s chances of clinching a historic win.
Captain Angelo Mathews (35) and Dinesh Chandimal’s (52 retired hurt) fifth-wicket 80-run stand provided some fireworks. It once again looked like the Asian side had an opportunity.
Chandimal smashed a 24-ball 52 but his hamstring niggled him, forcing him to retire at the peak of their chase in the 42nd over. Thereon, the Sri Lankan lower order could not cope under the pressure of chasing the monumental total and collapsed while trying to accelerate.
Earlier, Australia did not start well as they lost openers Aaron Finch (24) and David Warner (9) by the ninth over to be at 41/2. But two-century run partnerships between skipper Michael Clarke (68) and Steven Smith (72) and Shane Watson (67) and Maxwell helped the four-time champions to amass the highest Cup total against Sri Lanka by any team.
A 134-run third-wicket partnership between Clarke and Smith settled the innings before Maxwell and Watson went ballistic in the end to power them to the significant total.
Clarke scored his 57th half-century while Smith his fifth to give themselves a brilliant platform at 175/2 in the 31st over. However, both got out in a span of five balls which brought out Maxwell and Watson. The duo went berserk in the death overs to smash a 160-run fifth-wicket partnership to propel the run rate.
Maxwell’s knock included 10 boundaries and four huge sixes as he brought up his century in only 51 balls.
On the other hand, Watson, dropped from their last match due to poor form, gave a ‘good’ worry to the Australian management who will think twice before dropping him. The all-rounder hammered 67 off 41 deliveries, his innings studded with seven fours and two sixes.
New Zealand and India are the other teams who have qualified for the quarters.
Brief scores: Australia 376/9 in 50 overs (Glenn Maxwell 102, Steven Smith 72, Michael Clarke 68; Lasith Malinga 2/59, Thisara Perera 2/87) beat Sri Lanka 312 all out in 46.2 overs (Kumar Sangakkara 104, Tillakaratne Dilshan 62, Dinesh Chandimal 52 retired out; James Faulkner 3/48, Mitchell Starc 2/29, Mitchell Johnson 2/62). (IANS)