Sri Lanka 154/6
As Australia began the Super 12s with back-to-back triumphs, David Warner returned to form with a strong half-century. For the second match in a row, Australia chased down a target, however, this time there was little drama as Sri Lanka was made to pay for losing Warner early in his innings.
Sri Lanka’s offense has been a key factor in their success thus far in the tournament, but Australia’s challenge was a step up. Wanindu Hasaranga’s two wickets in two overs, including Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, boosted Sri Lankan hopes, but it took a half-century stand between Warner and Steven Smith to keep the pursuit afloat.
Finch was appreciative of the combined efforts of Adam Zampa and Mitchell Starc as Australia brought the innings back during the middle period, despite having opted to bowl. Sri Lanka cruised along to 53 for 1 in the powerplay and was well-placed approaching halftime with Charith Asalanka providing the spark, only for Zampa to cause a slump from 78 for 1 to 94 for 5.
Leg spin and speed are always a thrilling combination, and two of the most popular T20 weapons. Sri Lanka had bounced back nicely after losing Pathum Nissanka early on, with Asalanka and Perera putting on a 63-run second-wicket stand before Zampa struck in the 10th over. After being smashed for six over long-on in the previous over, Sri Lanka lost 4 for 16 in 17 deliveries, with Avishka Fernando top-edging a Zampa slog-sweep and Hasaranga caught behind trying a wide drive against Starc, as Australia took control.
Despite their poor recent results, Australia’s faith in Finch and Warner at the top of the order was rewarded handsomely, as the experienced opening pair took advantage of a sloppy Sri Lankan start with the ball to reach 63 without loss after six overs, the highest powerplay score in all T20 World Cups.
Sri Lanka required early wickets to defend a par total while batting first on this pitch. However, Chamika Karunaratne’s opening over was sloppy, falling short and wide twice, allowing Finch to cut fours in the UAE. With those two boundaries, Australia’s skipper had already reached his highest score in seven T20I innings.
Australia has just switched from using five specialist bowlers to attempting to juggle their allocation from a slew of all-rounders, and this match illustrated both sides of the coin. Maxwell bowled four inexpensive overs in the win over South Africa but was caught in the powerplay by Asalanka, forcing Finch to resort to Marcus Stoinis, who was caught by Rajapaksa at the death as Sri Lanka pushed on.
Australia’s “fifth bowler” cost them 51 runs in four overs, almost precisely a third of Sri Lanka’s total. However, the value of adding depth to their batting order was obvious. Mitchell Marsh, who didn’t have to bat or bowl and was only called upon on rare occasions on the field, couldn’t have asked for a better night’s work.
Sri Lanka required early wickets, but Australia’s openers overcame their shaky form to chip a significant chunk off the mark, which helped them win.