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Australia brush aside Lanka to enter finals

An Australian team batting at three quarter potential swept aside SriLanka to make it into third successive World Cup final.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 11:28 IST

An Australian team batting at three quarter potential swept aside SriLanka to make it into third successive World Cup final. They are by far the most superior team of this competition…. in a zone of their own and can be challenged by only one of the two; either an inspired Indian team playing total all round game at their peak potential or another sublime gem from Tendulkar that will outclass his 98 against Pakistan. On the day though Sri Lankans had neither and they lost by 48 runs on Duckworthy-Lewis method when rain stopped the play with 13 overs to go.

Sri Lanka bowled to a plan today after Ponting decided to bat first. On a slowish Port Elizabeth wicket that could be reminiscent of Colombo Sri Lankans stuck to their favorite method…that of using non-regular slow bowlers (who incidentally bowl quite regularly these days for SL in ODIs) D'Silva, Jayasuriya and Arnold interspersed with the strikers Vaas and Murali. The Aussie openers aren't looking in the best of nicks and add to that their favorite dislike; the slow bowling of D'Silva coming to bowl in the 5th over of the morning----result Gilchrist swept one too early only to edge it on to the pads and taken by keeper. But that wasn't quite the end of the Gilchrist story because he didn't realize that the umpire had given him not out and walked and walked and kept walking…. till he reached the pavilion and was told by his bewildered teammates that he may not have walked had he not wanted to.

Vaas continued picking up wickets and proved that it isn't all about pace, but the change of it that brought him two quick wickets---first Ponting drove a slower one on the up that stopped on him and then left handed Hayden doing a mirror image of Ponting. Suddenly those with their money on SL were excitedly imagining a 4 times return on their betting investing (read gambling, as betters were giving $4 return for every $bet on SL) with the score reading 50 odd for three.

First there was the rescue act part one with a dual cast of Symonds once again (remember his blistering 100 against Pakistan in their opening match) and Lehman via a 90 odd run partnership, the noticeable thing during this partnership being an easy stumping of Symonds missed by Sangkarra when the score was a Nelson---another wicketkeeper to disgrace himself of having possibly dropped the World Cup after Boucher and McCullum, which only makes Dravid worth his weight in gold. Then came the second collapse, four middle order Aussies falling to Jaysuriya -D'Silva combo with Murali keeping one end tight for just 30 odd runs followed by a late order rescue act part two by Symonds and Bichel. Australia finished with 212 runs, another below par performance by their strong batting on a slowish wicket just as they did against England, NZ, and Kenya.

Those with their money on SL were busy imagining ways to spend their upcoming riches; Indian fans (and perhaps the team) were imagining a relatively easy final against SL that had 8 specialist batsmen to overcome a mediocre 212…. but neither of these wishes were to come true.

Bret Lee bowled his fastest delivery ever at 100mph to knock of Attapatu's off stump…. then he removed two hapless lefties Tilakratne and Gunawardene beaten by pace caught by Gilchrist. Meanwhile the accurate McGrath had a relatively unfit (with a chipped thumb) Jayasuriya pulling one tamely into the hands of square leg. The decisive blow though came when D'Silva after getting to a positive start was run out by Bichel…. Aussies knew it; Lankans realized it as did every soul on the ground and in front of their TV sets that that was when Lankans got knocked out of the 2003 edition of World Cup. Thereafter Sangkarra prodded around; Vaas came and struck a few blows before rain put an end to the Lankan miseries around the 37th over when their team total was 123 for 7.D/L method showed that Sri Lanka was behind by 48 runs at that point and that was to be the final score line.

Sri Lanka would be disappointed at loosing the semis but overall would consider that they have done well enough finishing in the top four of the world. Aussies need to consider the multiple and frequent failures of their top order especially to the slower variety of bowlers. Indians would have seen that and would have started building strategies to exploit this supposed slow bowling weakness and surviving the Lee onslaughts. But first there is a semifinal against the Kenyans that has to be got out of the way on Thursday for the India---and not too many miracles should be expected.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 11:28 IST