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A spectacular recovery by the Australian middle-order, led by Cameron White, has taken the team to a thumping 81-run victory against Sri Lanka in T20 World Cup Super 8 clash at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. The victory, including the manner of it has virtually sealed a semi-final spot for the Aussies, while throwing the rest of the Group wide open.
An early top-order collapse had given Sri Lanka the upper-hand in this contest, but the Lankans failed to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the Aussies and that cost them dear at the end. They let the Aussies off the hook and once they had done that, the Men from down Under seized control of the game and never allowed the Lankans to make any sort of comeback.
An unchanged Australian line-up did not have the best possible start after Micheal Clarke won the toss and decided to bat. They lost the in-form Shane Watson (1) in the very first over when an inside-edge off Angelo Mathews rattled his woodwork. Brad Haddin (15), sent in at one-down hit three glorious boundaries before he mis-timed an aerial shot off Mathews and Sanath Jayasuriya ran in from long-off to complete the catch.
Mathews was taken out of the attack after his double-strike and the ball was thrown to the young offie, Suraj Randiv playing in place of the injured Muttiah Muralitharan. And Randiv compounded Austarlia's problems when he removed two in-form players, David Warner (8) and David Hussey (0) with consecutive deliveries.
The skipper, Michael Clarke joined Cameron White in the centre and the two of them set out to repair the early damage. They played some sensible risk-free cricket and kept rotating the strike with White getting the odd boundary here and there. Randiv nearly had White as he managed to get a top-edge, only for Mendis to put down a rather difficult chance. Randiv though got his third wicket the very next delivery when Clarke went after a ball that was a bit too close to cut and ended up chopping it onto his stumps.
White, now in the company of Mike Hussey continued his strokeplay with Hussey feeding him with as much of the strike as possible. He reached his fifty off just 32 deliveries in the 15th over. With 5 overs to go and White well in, the stage was set for the final flourish. What followed next was an exhilarating display of strokeplay from both batsmen.
Lasith Malinga bowled a quiet 16th over in which he conceded just 7 runs. But that proved to be the lull before the storm as the Aussies smashed sixty-two off the last 4 overs. White cleared the boundary four times in those four overs and remained unbeaten on 85 off just 49 deliveries. Hussey (39 n.o.), who was more of a spectator in the early stages of the partnership decided to join in the fun and he too managed to get 4 boundaries and a six, that included three boundaries in a single Lasith Malinga over.
The strong middle-order revival took Australia to 168 at the end of their quota of 20 overs, a total not many would have predicted after the top-order collapse. The Sri Lankans desperately needed Mahela Jayawardene, their saviour in the previous matches to fire. But it wasn't to be his day. He pulled Nannes over the square-leg boundary and then went for a repeat shot the next ball only to top-edge it down the throat of Shanu Tait at third-man to perish for 9.
Tait was in the thick of the action once again the very next over when he removed the skipper Sangakkara (2), who had managed to find some form in the previous match. When Nannes trapped Jayasuriya (5) plumb in front in the next over, the Sri Lankan chase looked to be going astray.
An out of form Tilakaratane Dilshan tried to counter-attack and had moved on to a quick-fire 20 when he cut a ball uppishly to the left of Cameron White at point. White it seemed could do no wrong on the day as he simply plucked the ball out of thin air to send Dilshan packing. And two balls later Mathews (8) joined him in the pavilion, giving Mitchell Johnson his second wicket of the over. Sri Lanka had lost half their side without scoring even 50 runs.
Chamara Kapugadera strode out to join Dinesh Chandimal in the centre. A slow recovery seemed to be in progress until three quick wickets in as many overs wiped out any hopes the Lankans might have had. Steven Smith got one to beat Kapugadera (12) and disturbed his stumps. Randiv, the star with the ball was run-out for 2 and Smith had Chandimal stumped for 19. At 83 for 8, the result was never in any doubt. However, as a formality Michael Clarke got Malinga (1) and Johnson cleaned up Mendis (1) to clinch victory by a huge margin of 81 runs.
Cameron White was awarded the man-of-the-match for his astonishing effort. This victory means that the Aussies have more or less qualified for the semis. Two massive victories have given them a very healthy run-rate and only a huge conspiracy by the cricketing Gods can stop them from qualifying.
The Lankans meanwhile are now locked in a three-way battle for the second semi-final spot. A win against India coupled with an Aussie victory over the West Indies will see them through. However, if both Sri Lanka and the Windies win their final matches, then it will be down to net run-rate. Sri Lanka can qualify even if they lose by a small margin provided the Windies lose by a big enough margin so as to get ahead of Chris Gayle's men on account of a superior net run-rate. Amazingly, the result also means that a small window has opened for India to sneak into the semi-finals if the Aussies beat the West Indies and India down Sri Lanka by a large margin when these four sides reunite in St. Lucia on Tuesday.
Australia 168/5 (20 overs, 8.4 rpo)
C White 85*(49) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â S Randiv 3-20
M Hussey 39*(26) Â Â Â Â Â Â A Mathews 2-24
Sri Lanka 87 all out (16.2 overs, 5.32 rpo)
T Dilshan 20(12) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â M Johnson 3-15
L Chandimal 19(24) Â Â Â Â S Smith 2-12
Also Read: England vs. New Zealand Match Preview
File Photograph Copyright: Barry Zee
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