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Partnerships hold key against Aussies

Sri Lanka have a tough task, but the only way to manage it is through good partnerships, writes Atul Sondhi.

cricket Updated: Apr 26, 2007 21:18 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

Australia's semifinal against South Africa was significant from one point of view. The last five South African wickets managed to add as many as 122 runs after a top order collapse, which had seen the challengers losing their first five wickets for only 27 on board.

And then, after the early dismissal of Gilchrist, Australians did look a lot more cautious compared to their previous matches when chasing a small score. Probably, the knockout nature of the match with winner-takes-all made them a little careful.

So the Australians can be vulnerable if the Sri Lankan top order clicks after they opt to bat first. But more than that, Sri Lanka will have to build few good partnerships, if they are to rock the Australian boat.

Unfortunately, all the top oppositions previously have not managed to build more than one good partnership against Australia, which allowed the yellow brigade to swamp them with some serious pace and accuracy.

How Australia crushed South Africa at St Kitts(In a group match)

There was just one partnership of note. The opening partnership between Villiers and Smith of 160 runs in just 21 overs when chasing a target of 378. In fact, between 256 and 267, the South Africans lost as many as three middle order wickets, including Boucher and Kemp, to completely lose their way. Incidentally, the first wicket partnership turned out to be 54 per cent of the eventual South African total. So, in nutshell, it was the sheer failure to build few good partnerships which led to the downfall of the South African side in their last group encounter against Australia.

How Australia annihilated the hosts at Antigua in Super-Eight

Chasing a target of 323 is a tough job. And if you lose three quick wickets for just 20 on board and the names include Chanderpaul, Gayle and Samuels, it requires some really good partnerships to get back in the match. The West Indies were allowed just one good partnership, 71 between Sarwan and Lara.

There was one of 49 between Lara and Ramdin, but only after the fall of the 5th wicket with over 200 to get. That was simply not enough.

Why Australia could not be belled

The mini-Ashes at Antigua was another demonstration of how one big partnership can not substitute for small efforts.

Pietersen made a tremendous century and was involved in a scintillating partnership with Bell. The two added 140 runs for the third wicket but failure of any other substantial partnership allowed England to reach just 247 runs.

Wickets falling at regular intervals after the massive partnership, which was 57 per cent of the total, did slow down the tempo. The other big partnership was just 51 runs between Bopara and Pietersen, which threatened Australia only briefly.

Jayawardene, Silva let down by others

Sri Lanka against Australia at Grenada was the same story as of Australia's previous opponents. A score of 226 and just one big partnership - 140 runs.

Chamara Silva and Jayawardene were involved in the fourth wicket partnership, which was 62 per cent of the team total, and came between two collapses. It took off after Sri Lanka had lost three wickets between 26 and 27, and when it ended, Sri Lanka again lost five wickets for 17 runs.

Probably one more big partnership efforts could have led to a more serious challenge than the one which resulted in a seven-wicket humiliation.

How New Zealand was terrorized at Grenada

Making 349 runs to win against Australia was never going to be easy. And it was made all the more difficult by the failure to build any substantial partnership by New Zealand. None of their partnership could cross 50, the biggest being 48 runs between Fulton and Styris - which was one-third of the eventual total of 133.

So it is clear that against big teams, Australians have allowed just one substantial partnership per match. And wickets have usually fallen on either side of the partnership in heaps. That is something Sri Lanka will have to guard against if they are to deny Australia their third successive World Cup title. They do have the batsmen to do it, but application will be the key.

First Published: Apr 26, 2007 18:19 IST