Five-time champions Australia finally got their ODI World Cup campaign off the floor with a five-wicket defeat of Sri Lanka at the Ekana Stadium here on Monday. It was the third consecutive defeat for the 1996 champions.
Pat Cummins’s team had been desperate to score their first points after comprehensive defeats to India and South Africa. In fact, Australia even found themselves at the bottom of the points table on Sunday following Afghanistan’s upset victory over defending champions England in Delhi.
After he had struggled to find much rhythm in the first two games, leg-spinner Adam Zampa captured 4/47 to rein in Sri Lanka, who were coasting at 125 for no loss in the 22nd over but were dismissed for 209 in 43.3 overs after a shocking batting collapse. Australia’s reply saw early setbacks, but opener Mitch Marsh’s 51-ball 52 and Josh Inglish’s 59-ball 58 at No.5 set up the successful chase, which was finished in a flurry of shots by Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis.
Australia finished on 215/5 in 35.2 overs, which helped lift the net run rate and make a strong statement ahead of the next match against Pakistan in Bengaluru on Friday.
Despite the brilliant bowling fightback, Australia faced early setbacks in their chase after they lost David Warner (11) and Steven Smith (0) cheaply, both trapped leg before by Dilshan Madushanka to reduce it to 24/2. Marsh (9x4s) though stepped up to play forcing shots in a 57-run partnership with Marnus Labuschagne. Marsh was run out going for a tight second run, but Labuschagne raised another 77 runs for the next wicket with Inglis (59b, 5×4, 1×6) to ease concerns in the Aussie camp.
The Sri Lanka spinners failed to make an impact in the middle overs and though left-arm slow bowler Dunith Wellalage had Inglis caught, Maxwell and then Stoinis didn’t ease up the pressure on the bowlers.
It hardly looked like Australia’s day to start with as Sri Lanka got off to a fine start, openers Pathum Nissanka (61 – 67b, 8×4) and Kusal Perera (78 – 82b, 12×4) stitching together 125 runs in 130 balls. Cummins, on for his third spell, got hard-hitting Nissanka caught brilliantly by a diving David Warner at deep mid-wicket before bowling Perera.
Zampa then took over, though a passing drizzle and a dust storm halted the game twice. It was a good comeback by the struggling spinner, who returned 1/70 against South Africa and 0/53 against India. On Monday, Zampa, even after being hit for two fours in his first over by Nissanka, kept a tight line.
Zampa removed Kusal Mendis, leading the side in place of the injured Dhasun Shanaka, with Warner taking another brilliant catch near the mid-wicket boundary. Thereafter, except for Charith Asalanka (25), none could handle Zampa’s googlies as he removed Sadeera Samarawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne and Maheesh Theekshana.
At the other end, Maxwell produced an economical spell of spin while Mitchell Starc, who warned Kusal Perera after halting on his run-up for leaving the crease early, took two wickets.
Zampa said: “To be honest, I did not feel great. I have been sporting a back spasm for a couple of days, but maybe I bowled better today. It was the captain’s decision to bowl the off-spinner to the lefties,” he told the broadcaster.
“I couldn’t bowl better in the last game, and to be honest, I feel I can do better but good to be at the better end of the result tonight. Again, I didn’t feel at my best but want to try and keep my wicket-taking attitude.”
Sri Lanka meet Netherlands in Lucknow on Saturday in a day game.