Friday 22 February 2008 

Australia Claim CB Series Final Place With D/L Win


Australia 184-7 (Hussey 64no, Clarke 50, Maharoof 2-20)
Sri Lanka 77-4 (Clark 2-8) after 29.3 overs

Australia won by 24 runs (Duckworth/Lewis)

Australia booked their place in the CB Series with a Duckworth/Lewis method 24-run win over Sri Lanka in the latest match in Melbourne.

Chasing 185 to win, rain ended the game with Sri Lanka on 77 for four after 29.3 overs. Australia are now guaranteed a final spot with Sri Lanka almost certainly out of the competition.

Sri Lanka got off to the worst possible start in their run chase, when they lost Sanath Jayasuriya in the second over of their innings without a run on the board.

The situation became even more difficult for them when Dilruwan Perera was adjudged lbw for one to give Stuart Clarke his second wicket and leave Sri Lanka reeling on three for two in the fourth over.

Perera�s wicket brought Sri Lanka�s captain and vice captain to the crease, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. The pair put on a superb partnership of 153 against India in Sri Lanka�s last game and were desperately searching for a repeat performance to help Sri Lanka get over the line. Batting proved to be very difficult however as Sri Lanka crawled their way to 19 for two after ten overs.

Jayawardene and Sangakarra were just starting to lift the scoring rate and it was looking as though Sri Lanka would wrestle the initiative away from Australia, when Jayawardene was caught by Adam Gilchrist off the bowling of Nathan Bracken for 27 to leave Sri Lanka 42 for three in the 17th over and put the game firmly in the balance.

The Australians continued to keep the Sri Lankan batsmen under pressure, however Sangakkara has been the form player for Sri Lanka in recent times, indeed, he scored a century in his last game. On this occasion however, clearly frustrated at not being able to get on top of the Australian bowlers, he totally mistimed an attempted pull shot and was caught in the covers by Andrew Symonds, this left Sri Lanka 64 for four in the 25th over, and Australia were well in control.

Soon after Sangakkara departed, the heavens opened with Sri Lanka precariously placed at 77 for four in the 30th over. No more play was possible and victory was Australia�s by virtue of the Duckworth Lewis: Sri Lanka needed to be on 102 therefore falling short by 24 runs.

Australia�s win means that they have now confirmed their place in the best of three match final, while Sri Lanka must win both their remaining matches and hope that India don�t beat the Australians convincingly on Sunday.

Earlier, a superb bowling display by Sri Lanka saw Australia restricted to 184 for 7 from their allotted 50 overs in Melbourne. Only Michael Hussey (64 no) and Michael Clarke (50) made any meaningful contributions for the hosts.

Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bowl first in game nine of the Commonwealth Bank Series against Australia. Mahela Jayawardene�s men went into the match in the knowledge that defeat would almost certainly see them eliminated from the tournament.

Their opening bowlers, bowled with a lot of control and accuracy early on and made use of what appeared to be very helpful conditions for bowling as they put pressure on the Australia�s opening batsmen.

That pressure was rewarded when Adam Gilchrist completely missed a ball from Chaminda Vaas when attempting an expansive pull shot to be bowled for six to leave Australia 12 for one in the fifth over.

The fall of Adam Gilchrist brought the Australian captain Ricky Ponting to the crease. Ponting has looked out of sorts in this series so far and he and Matthew Hayden continued to find life difficult at the hands of the Sri Lankan bowlers and the Australian scoring rate virtually came to a halt.

Hayden, attempting to hit a cover drive in the 16th over, only succeeded in getting a leading edge where he was caught at cover by Chamara Silva to leave Australia in trouble at 39 for two.

Ponting followed Hayden back to the pavilion very soon after when he was run out courtesy of some brilliant athleticism by Maharoof. He departed for eleven as Australia were 44 for three and in desperate need of a solid partnership.

Andrew Symonds poor run of form continued as he was caught by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara off the bowling of Maharoof for four to leave Australia reeling at 55 for four in the 22nd over.

The two Michaels, Clarke and Hussey set about repairing the Australian innings. The duo were happy to work the ball around and take all the singles that were on offer. Australia found themselves 84 for four after 30 overs, well aware that much depended on this partnership, if they were to have any chance of posting a competitive total.

Clarke and Hussey continued to rebuild the Australian innings, with a partnership that was really starting to frustrate the Sri Lankans. Clarke started to play a few more aggressive shots, hitting two consecutive boundaries off the bowling of Lasith Malinga, as Australia were 134 for four after 40 overs and starting to look as though they could post a competitive total. Clarke brought up his half century in the 42nd over as Australia were now looking to lift the tempo of the innings.

It looked as though Clarke and Hussey were really about to climb in to the Sri Lankan bowlers in the closing overs of their innings, when Clarke was caught and bowled by Muralitharan for 50, and Australia were 144 for five in the 43rd over. It was a much needed breakthrough for the Sri Lankans and it ended a partnership of 90 between Hussey and Clarke.

James Hopes added eleven to the score before he was stumped by Sangakkara off the bowling of Murali for 11, with Australia 166 for six in the 47th over.

Australia closed their innings on 184 for seven, with Hussey finishing 64 not out. As well as Sri Lanka bowled and fielded, they were in the process of being undone again by Australia who took a deserved win. Not even the rain can stop them.

Aaron Kumar
� Cricket World 2008