Australia Easily Dismiss Sri Lanka Challenge

Australia dismissed the challenge of a deliberately weakened Sri Lanka side with ruthless ease on Monday to record a seven-wicket win in their penultimate World Cup Super Eights clash. As both teams had already qualified for the semi-finals on April 24 and 25, Sri Lanka decided to rest their two leading bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan while injured strike bowler Lasith Malinga was again omitted. In their absence the world champions, set a modest 227 for victory, cruised to 232 for three from only 42.4 overs. Australia captain Ricky Ponting said before the game his unbeaten team hoped for a "hard, honest contest". Instead, after the top Sri Lanka three had all returned to the pavilion before the score had reached 30, it needed a partnership of 140 between captain Mahela Jaywardene (72) and Chamara Silva (64) to take them to 226 all out from 49.4 overs. Adam Gilchrist (30) and Matthew Hayden (41) took 11 off Dilhara Fernando's opening over to set the tone for a run chase pursued with the Australians' customary efficiency. Hayden lofted Farveez Maharoof for six over long-on and took another off Russel Arnold's first ball of the tournament. Arnold, though, had the final say when Hayden mishit his fifth ball to Tillakaratne Dilshan at mid-wicket and in his next over Gilchrist, who was dropped by Arnold at short-cover on 10, was lbw to the off-spinner. The pair's opening stand of 76 was their 25th of 50 or more in one-day internationals. SYMONDS' FIFTY Ponting passed 50 for the fourth time in the tournament with a chanceless innings featuring some delightful footwork and swift running between the wickets, finishing on 66 not out from 80 balls after hitting a six to win the match. Andrew Symonds struck 63 from 71, hitting Sanath Jayasuriya over long-on for six in consecutive overs on his way to his first half-century of the tournament. The day began promisingly for Sri Lanka after Jayawardene had won the toss and decided to bat. Jayasuriya punched a four through the covers from Nathan Bracken's opening over and reached 12 from as many balls when he was lbw to the left-armer playing across the line. Kumar Sangakkara was lbw to Glenn McGrath for a duck and Upul Tharanga was caught by Hayden at first slip for six. Shaun Tait could not command the accuracy of his colleagues and Silva flicked a four past Hayden and square-cut another when the Australia fast bowler returned for his second spell. Jayawardene lofted Tait for a six to leg to bring up his 50 from 64 balls and the 100 partnership at the same time. Silva's dismissal caught by Clarke at short fine-leg off Brad Hogg's left-arm spin was the beginning of the end. Jaywardene was stumped in Hogg's next and final over and apart from two sixes from Malinga Bandara (17) the innings fell away. Bracken, who consistently beat the bat, finished with the outstanding figures of four for 19 from 9.4 overs. Sri Lanka play their final second-round match against Ireland on Wednesday while Australia conclude their group stage fixtures against New Zealand two days later. © Reuters 2007