Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene has rebutted suggestions his side devalued their World Cup Super Eight clash with Australia by not playing their best XI.
Playing at the National Stadium on Monday, Australia registered a handsome seven-wicket win over a Sri Lankan side without star left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas and champion off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
"We never did that (devalued the game) because up to now we took every game seriously and this game as well we took very seriously," Jayawardene argued at a post-match media conference.
"We have 15 guys who we brought along to play this tournament and all those 15 guys are quality players who have been playing for us the last 12 months and we never devalued the game.
"It's just that we had to make a team decision. We couldn't sustain another injury like what happened to Lasith (Malinga). These guys are key players and we are going into the business end of the tournament and if one of these guys are not fit [for those matches] we would definitely look back and think why didn't we make this decision."
He said both Vaas and Muralitharan, who have taken 11 and 15 wickets so far in the tournament respectively, had sustained injuries just prior to the Cricket World Cup and had subsequently played a lot of cricket.
The decision to rest them, he contended, was taken in the best interest of the team.
"Those guys have been playing throughout the World Cup. Murali had a problem with his groin as well, he played with a strap the last two, three games and once we realised we've got the semi-final spot, I thought we needed to give those guys a break," Jayawardene explained.
"These guys had injury problems the last six to 12 months and we've been giving them breaks and that's something that the team management has been doing because we had to manage those players. That is a decision we had to take for the best interest of the team."
He went on to say that: "Obviously when we took the decision we knew it was going to be a tough game for us, especially playing Australia but in the interest of the team we had to make that decision because we have been playing a lot of cricket. Lasith obviously wasn't still fit enough to play today and we couldn't risk another injury so we had to give them proper rest."
Sri Lanka, batting first after winning the toss, were dismissed for 226 in the 49th over, after slipping to 27 for three behind a telling spell of bowling from left-arm seamer Nathan Bracken who finished with four for 19.
In reply, Australia cruised to 232 for three with captain Ricky Ponting lashing an unbeaten 66 and Andrew Symonds chipping in with an unbeaten 63.
"I thought we played good cricket, it's just that we made mistakes against Australia. I thought we were in a position to push for a good score. We fought really well and we lost four wickets for 15 runs and when you do that against a quality side they will definitely punish you," Jayawardene pointed out.
"Yes they managed to get the score pretty easily. Our bowling didn't look that penetrative taking wickets but I don't think our guys bowled particularly today. I thought we could have done a much better job given the conditions."