Champion Trophy: Australian pride takes a pounding as Sri Lanka progress into semi-finals
Sri Lanka 253-8 Australia 233
Monday 17 June 2013
Australia's stand-in captain, George Bailey, surveyed the wreckage of their disastrous Champions Trophy campaign and admitted it has not been the greatest preparation for this summer's main event. However, with the majority of the side – including Bailey – who failed to defend the title they won in both 2006 and 2009 not involved when the first Ashes Test begins at Trent Bridge on 10 July, it was not all doom and gloom.
"There's probably not a great deal of confidence there but it's a very different mindset, going from a one-day tournament to a Test tour," he said, not altogether convincingly. "It doesn't matter where sides are ranked, the Ashes brings out something special in both sides. The result of the first couple of Tests will dictate how the summer plays out."
These are strange times for the Ashes rivalry. We had Graeme Swann declaring his support on Twitter for Australia, and then Mitchell Johnson unwittingly did a favour for a team who have dealt him so much punishment. When Johnson smacked Shaminda Eranga down the ground for four in Australia's run chase, it took Australia from 164 to 168 and ensured England would top Group A and face South Africa in tomorrow's semi-final at The Oval.
To achieve a better net run rate than England and top the group, Sri Lanka needed to restrict Australia's to 164 or fewer after making 253 for 8 from their 50 overs. Their inability to do so means a last-four tie in Cardiff on Thursday against India, by far the most impressive team in the competition so far.
Sri Lanka's total, inspired by the umpteenth masterpiece from Mahela Jayawardene, left Australia needing to make 254 to win in 29.1 overs to overtake New Zealand on net run rate and reach the last four. It was always a long shot, and became virtually impossible when Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell were out early. Johnson's departure left Australia on 168 for 8 but their need to play attacking cricket early on had left them well ahead of the run rate. Adam Voges, Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty added 65 for the final two wickets until, with 22 more needed, Tillakaratne Dilshan took a brilliant, one-handed return catch to remove McKay.
His celebrated like a footballer who had just scored the winning goal in a World Cup final and his team-mates joined him to share his joy. Despite this scare, Sri Lanka are a serious limited-overs side and should test India.
Tempting as it is during an Ashes summer to draw certain conclusions, there is little about Australia's performances in this tournament that should be read as signals for the battles ahead.
Bailey revealed that regular captain Michael Clarke has been pencilled in to play in the first Ashes warm-up game against Somerset and how they will need him. Certain Australian characteristics remain, however, regardless of the quality of the team, and Matthew Wade is doing proud the tradition of the talkative wicketkeeper. Wade got under the skin of Jayawardene, normally a placid character, to such a degree that the pair exchanged words several times during Jayawardene's innings-defining 84 not out, compiled from 81 deliveries.
When Watson chopped Nuwan Kulasekara on to his stumps in the second over of the reply, and Maxwell was bowled, Australia were virtually out. Their need to attack ensured a healthy run rate but wickets continued to fall, with Phil Hughes, Bailey and Mitchell Marsh also falling cheaply. The feisty Wade hit Rangana Herath for a steepling six before he and Kulasekara collided mid-pitch as the Australian took a single. Wade's blood was pumping but when he tried another big shot, he was caught in the deep and Kulasekara had his man.
Despite the late revival, the last significant contribution was that of Johnson – and that was to aid another team. Australia must regroup, while Sri Lanka, defeated in the 2011 World Cup final by India, sense revenge.
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