Ponting and Lee star in emphatic Australia win
A century from skipper Ricky Ponting and devastating spell of express pace bowling from speedster Brett Lee handed Australia an emphatic 96 run victory in their opening Super Six clash against Sri Lanka at Centurion on Friday.
Australia, the reigning world champions and favourites to lift this trophy having now won a record 13 ODI matches on the trot, scored a mammoth 319 for five and, despite a glorious display from veteran Aravinda de Silva, then bowled out Sri Lanka for 223 in 47.4 overs.
Lee scythed through Sri Lanka's top order during an aggressive opening burst with the new ball, claiming three wickets in the space of nine deliveries as Sri Lanka lost four wickets for just six runs.
The Australian pace bowler could also have dented Sri Lanka's World Cup ambitions with a short thunderbolt that badly bruised Sanath Jayasuriya's forearm and fractured his left thumb in the second over of the innings.
The talismanic left-hander, Sri Lanka's leading run scorer in the first round with 269 runs, was forced to retire hurt and could play no further part in the World Cup although the management are hopeful of him recovering in time for Sri Lanka's final Super Six game against Zimbabwe.
Sri Lanka reacted well to Jayasuriya's early retirement with Marvan Atapattu and Hashan Tillakaratne adding 36 runs but once Lee had torn open a hole he proved irresistible.
Pumped up after two neat boundaries in the over, Lee clasped an excellent tumbling reaction catch in his follow through to dismiss Atapattu and then made quick work of Mahela Jayawardene (0), whose wretched World Cup continued when he nicked a catch to the wicket-keeper.
The metronomic Glen McGrath claimed a brief moment in the limelight when he swung an inswinger through the defenses of number three Hashan Tillakartne (21) but the Lee demolition act continued as Russel Arnold (1) was pinned to his stumps.
The scoreline should have been 48 for five next ball but umpire David Shepherd refused to raise his finger despite television replays showing that Sangakkara had been trapped palpably lbw with another curving thunderbolt.
Aravinda de Silva and Sangakkara then prevented total meltdown with a 52 run partnership for the fifth wicket but Sri Lanka's chances of winning the match had long since evaporated as the run rate spiraled out of control.
Sangakkara eventually perished after a direct hit from Brad Hogg but the 37-year-old de Silva provided rich entertainment, whipping four wristy sixes and nine fours in his 92 from 94 balls before chipping a return catch back to Brad Hogg and walking off to a standing ovation.
Earlier, Gilchrist had seized an early initiative with a trademark blitzkrieg. The 31-year-old left-hander clumped 50 from just 45 balls before falling agonisingly short of a ninth one-day century when he was run out for 99 by a laser-like direct hit from Chaminda Vaas running in from the boundary.
Gilchrist added 75 with Mathew Hayden, who looked unfortunate to be given out caught bat-pad off Muttiah Muralitharan for 22, and then 106 in 17.3 overs with Ponting.
The fall of the quick-scoring Gilchrist, who faced just 88 balls, cracking 14 fours and two sixes, did not hamper the Australians as Ponting, who had struggled with his timing early on, merely clicked up the gears.
Having brought up his fifty off 66 balls, the Australian captain raced to his 12th one-day century, and the fourth of his captaincy, off just another 30 balls as Vaas was smashed for 20 runs in his eighth over.
Sri Lanka were left ruing a series of missed chances, including a muffed stumping by Sangakkara early on and two run outs when on 36 and 72.
The 28-year-old finished with 114 from 106 balls, an innings that included eight fours and two sixes, and added 112 in just 15.5 overs with the silky smooth Damien Martyn (52) before top edging an attempted pull.
Dilhara Fernando, the best of the Sri Lankan seamers despite being warned twice for running on the protected area, picked up a brace of wickets in the final over to finish three for 47, the best figures of the innings.
Star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was the only other bowler to threaten, finishing with one for 47 from his 10 overs, the most economical figures of the day.