Sri Lanka and Australia have played against each other in two World Cup finals: one in 1996 and one in 2007. Sri Lanka emerged as the better team in 1996 when they beat Australia by seven wickets to claim the biggest honour in the cricketing world. On the
other hand, Australia demolished the Sri Lankan bowling in 2007 to claim the World Cup for third time in a row. Now they meet again. Four years after their defeat in the World Cup Final, Sri Lanka are geared up to match the team from Down Under, and with the
added advantage of being the home team.
The World Cup has started off like a grass in a whirl wind. One sided matches have been contrasted by surprise victories for Ireland and nail biters like Netherlands vs. England. As far the competition goes for Sri Lanka and Australia, it has been a bit
off, for both the teams. Sri Lanka has won two out of three matches they have played so far. They fared quite well against minnows like Canada and Kenya. They beat Canada by a heavy margin of 210 runs, scoring 330 on a good batting track. Against Kenya, their
bowling did the magic trick and they bowled out the African team for a meagre 142. But the story isn’t a fairy tale. The Asian Tigers failed to show fluster against Pakistan. The bowling was good in patches. They bowled considerably well in the batting powerplay
which cost Pakistan a hefty 30 runs, at least. But the batting could do a bit of improvement. Once considered one of the greatest chasers in the world, the Sri Lankans failed to make their mark on their own turf. Hence the room for improvement is there.
The story for Australia is better. They have won 2 out of 2 matches that they have played. But they don’t have the killer punch that they had in the previous two world cups; the spirit which made it sure, even before the World Cup that Australia were the
sure winners, is missing in this World Cup. They defeated Zimbabwe by 91 runs, but they were slow to pick up the batting and they could’ve bowled out Zimbabwe for a much lower total had they been playing their A-game. But the bright aspect is that their performance
against New Zealand improved a lot. Their bowling was far more disciplined. The batting was impressive, too. They have found a great opener in Shane Watson. Watson, though, is injury prone and has hence stopped bowling long spells, but the improvement he has
shown in the batting department is remarkable.
The Match is being played at the Premadasa Stadium, Colombo; the wicket where the Lankans lost to Pakistan, batting second. But this doesn’t cloud the fact that their record on this ground is very impressive and they have the tools, the players and the talent
to beat the Aussies in Colombo, any day.
A bonus for Sri Lanka will be the addition of Lasith Malinga, who will definitely be a great asset in the bowling department. Malinga was recovering from an injury and has only played one match in the World Cup, so far. But as Sangakkara has hinted in his
interviews, the key would be the spin attack. The Sri Lankans have a daunting spin attack, spearheaded by Muttiah Muralitharan, and his second-in-command Rangana Herath. Moreover, Dilshan can be a surprise wicket taker when the situation need be.
The Australians will be dependent on the pace attack of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, both of whom bowled exceptionally well against New Zealand. Mitchell Johnson also will be under observers’ key to perform well against the home team. As for their batting,
key would be how Watson plays against Malinga. It is kind of a showdown between Sri Lankan’s loose cannon and Australians’ front batsman.