Sri Lanka Vs Australia
Starting time: 2:30 pm IST
Colombo, March 4: It's a rematch of the World Cup 2007 final. The World Champions Australia are taking on the Runners-up in what promises to be rip-rollicking ride of a game at Colombo on Saturday, March 5. The Aussies lead the Lankans by 47 wins to 22 in the over-all head-to-head and since the last World Cup have beaten them 4 times out of 7.
But more importantly, Sri Lanka won its maiden ODI series victory Down Under late last year, 2-1. In that series, the Sinhalese demonstrated the sort of tenacity and defiance befitting a team of their stature.
However, since that engagement three months ago, the Aussies have regrouped and have pulled together a resurgence that is hard to ignore. They have even begun their World Cup 2011 campaign as one of the most ominously strong teams, winning its first two matches - against Zimbabwe and New Zealand - quite comfortably.
Sri Lanka meanwhile, are looking just a tad bit scratchy. Yes, they have thrashed the minnows Canada and Kenya, but fell 11 runs short of Pakistan's total in a chase which lacked the batting verve that they are known for.
Going by the statistics of Sri Lanka's track record against the Aussies in the last four years, it seems that the hosts's captain Kumara Sangakkara might well emerge as the turmp card for his side in Saturday's game. He was the fourth highest run-scorer in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank tri-nation series (with India as the third team), notching up an aggregate of 326 runs at an average of 46.56.
In the triumphant last series against the Aussies, again he figured as the fourth highest run-scorer, team mates Upul Tharanga and Angelo Mathews and Aussie Michael Clarke coming ahead of him. Sangakkara also has a robust average of over 56 in the World Cup so far.
Another key contender will be Lankan fast bowler Thisara Perera, who took 7 wickets from 3 matches in the Nov 2010 series in Australia at an average of 14.85 and in this global event, has already taken 5 wickets from 2 matches at 17.20 runs per scalp.
Lasith Malinga will be yet another character to watch out for, especially going by his outrageous 6/38 against Kenya. And if he could nearly snatch defeat from the jaws of defeat in a 2007 World Cup encounter against South Africa, where he took four wickets in four balls, he could cause the Aussies some problems as well.
The Aussies in turn might expect Michael Clarke to play a prominent role for his side against the Lankans. He bears promising averages of 39.25 and 51.00 in the previous two series against Lanka, while fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee both have good records against the side as well and will itching to target the premier Lankan batsmen on Saturday.
So one will have to wait and see whether Sri Lanka maintains its winning ways against Australia or if the latter will spring a suprise and overwhelm the former.