World Cup: 2nd spot in Pool A riding on Aussies v Sri Lanka
Mar. 07, 2015
SYDNEY (AP) — A big opening victory, a washout, a one-wicket loss and a win of record proportions; Australia's World Cup so far has been anything but consistent.
Michael Clarke's lineup will have to get everything right against 1996 champion Sri Lanka on Sunday to make sure its path to the final doesn't include another detour to New Zealand.
With both teams expected to reach the quarters, this match is about placings in the pool. A loss for Australia could mean a semifinal in Auckland, New Zealand — if the four-time champions advance that far.
The result "will play a huge role in who we play against in the quarterfinals," Clarke said. "Sri Lanka are high on confidence. They've been playing some really good cricket, scoring a lot of runs.
"The players know where we stand — we don't need to talk about it."
Sri Lanka has had three straight wins since losing to New Zealand in the tournament opener, and is coming off a nine-wicket win over England when it chased down 310 with three overs to spare. The 37-year-old Kumar Sangakkara posted his second century in as many matches in that win, and shared a big partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne.
Veterans Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are playing their last World Cup and, after losing the finals to Australia in 2007 and to India in 2011, they're determined to go one better. Sri Lanka has not beaten Australia at a World Cup since the 1996 final, but has a good record in Sydney.
Australia will be without paceman Pat Cummins, who has a side strain and will miss at least two games. It is a similar problem to that suffered by all-rounder Andrew Faulkner, who in turned followed captain Clarke onto the injured list.
Sri Lanka also has had its share of injuries, with batsman Dimth Karunaratne ruled out of the tournament and replaced by leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna, and Rengana Herath expected to miss the Sydney match.
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews expected spin to play a big part in Sydney, meaning Prasanna may be immediately brought into the starting lineup.
"They've got about seven right-handers, so he comes into play," Mathews said.
Australia spinner Xavier Doherty is likely to get his first start of the tournament as replacement for Cummins.
Veteran allrounder Shane Watson was dropped for the previous match against Afghanistan and is likely to miss out again.
Australia is only too aware of the damage Sangakkara can do if he gets going. He averages almost 42 per innings in 45 ODIs against Australia, and has tallied his 13,961 ODI runs at a similar average.
"He's certainly as good as any player I've played against," Clarke said. "He's a wonderful batsman — his statistics show that in both test and one-day cricket."
While Clarke was happy to give an opinion on the strengths in the Sri Lanka team, Sangakkara was focusing inward.
He said Australia is " one of the top teams in the tournament ... we will play as the underdogs," he said. "There's no use thinking too much about the strengths of the Australian side. It's better for us to look at ourselves."