Yesterday’s game between Australia and Sri Lanka was another high scoring one with Australia batting first and scoring 376/9 off their 50 overs, not the highest in the tournament but a very formidable one nonetheless. Given that teams batting second have chased down scores of 300 several times already, the bar for the team batting first has been raised to around 350 and Australia met it comfortably the standard way, scoring around 150 in the first 30 overs without losing more than a couple of wickets, and then piling on for the last 20 overs. Steven Smith and captain Michael Clarke did the first part and Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson were the architects of the second part, with Maxwell being ruthless and scoring the second fastest century in World Cup history off just 51 balls.
Sri Lanka, to their credit, were not fazed by the challenge and made a spirited effort to chase down this total but it was just too much and they were all out for 312 off 46.2 overs, despite Kumar Sangakkara scoring another elegant century, his third consecutive one in the tournament, something no one has done before. The final score does not really reflect the closeness of the game.
Australia once again showed that their batting has strength and depth and that their debacle against New Zealand may have been an aberration, though the New Zealand bowling attack and fielding have to be given a lot of credit since, in my opinion, they are the best in those two areas. Australia should be concerned that their normally fearsome pace attack did not seem to pose much terror for the Sri Lankan top batsmen, with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara scoring at will, with Mitchell Johnson being hit by Dilshan for six consecutive boundaries in one over.
Sri Lanka can take comfort that their batting has definitely firmed up and the brittleness that they displayed early in the tournament seems to have disappeared, to be replaced with determination. In fact in this game they were actually exceeding the Australian run rate up until the 42nd over. The departure of Dinesh Chandimal who had to leave the field because he was injured in the 42nd over when he was batting well and the score was 281 was a serious blow to their efforts. What also did Sri Lanka in was the inability of their bowlers to contain the Australian batsmen during the last eight overs when they scored a phenomenal 96 runs. They still do not seem to have settled on a good bowling lineup.
As someone who values sportsmanship, a small vignette about Maxwell’s innings is worth noting.
The most instructive moment of Maxwell’s innings was perhaps near the end. He was on 99 off 49. Still with a chance to trickle one around the corner and register the joint-fastest World Cup hundred. Also with the knowledge that he had missed out on that elusive hundred at least four times in the past. He looked to nudge Lasith Malinga, missed a slower ball, ran what he thought was a leg-bye, but saw umpire Ian Gould in no hurry to raise his leg. Greater batsmen with many more centuries to their name than Maxwell have snuck in a single at such moments, but Maxwell seemed to instruct to Gould he hadn’t hit it. The leg-bye was finally signalled.
Obviously it has been frustrating for Maxwell to have not scored that hundred, but he wasn’t going to bring up his first in an underhand manner.
That is the kind of thing I like to see and I doff my hat to Maxwell and say “Well played, sir!”