ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

Sri Lanka v Australia, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

Australia escape spin challenge on 'rolled mud'

Brydon Coverdale at the Premadasa Stadium

March 5, 2011

Comments: 124 | Text size: A | A

Australia escaped their most serious spin challenge in the tournament so far, thanks to the wash-out in Colombo, where they shared the points with Sri Lanka on a pitch Ricky Ponting described as "basically rolled mud". The ability of Australia's batsmen to handle top spinners in helpful conditions is one of the questions that has surrounded Ponting's side, which now has two wins and a no-result and sits third on the Group A table.

However, the Australians have a game in hand compared to the second-placed Sri Lanka, and they have what should be easy matches against Canada and Kenya coming up. The match in Colombo was reasonably evenly-balanced when heavy rain came and set in for the rest of the evening, with Sri Lanka at 146 for 3, but the sharp turn being displayed by Jason Krejza was a worrying sign for the Australian batsmen.

The hosts picked Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, the first time all three had played together in an ODI, and Ponting knew the trio would be hard to counter. He said in the lead-up to the game that he had been surprised by the lack of spin in the earlier games in Sri Lanka, but a glance at the pitch on the eve of the match suggested it would be a different story this time.

"That wicket is vastly different to the wickets that have been used in the previous games that have been played here in this World Cup so far," Ponting said after the washout. "It seemed that they had a pretty good idea that it was going to be that slow and low and was going to spin a fair bit, hence the reason they played their spinners.

"You could tell that it was going to be a lot different than the wicket that was played on the day before, because you could see that one right beside it. That one had a bit of grass on it, and the one we were going to use today was basically rolled mud. It spun quite a bit early in the game. What you associate with most one-day wickets is they generally don't do much in the first innings of the game and they might just spin a bit towards the latter half of the second innings of the game. It appeared that this one was going to be a difficult one to chase runs on."

Kumar Sangakkara picks a gap on the off side on his way to a 69-ball fifty, Sri Lanka v Australia, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 5, 2011
Kumar Sangakkara had set up an interesting contest with an unbeaten 73 © Associated Press

But the Australians won't know how their batsmen would have fared, as the dark clouds moved in during the second half of Sri Lanka's innings. When the rain came, it bucketed down, and although it had stopped by an hour after the match was abandoned, there was plenty of surface water on the parts of the ground that had not been covered.

It was a disappointing end to the most eagerly anticipated Group A match so far in the tournament. Shaun Tait bowled one of his best opening spells in recent times, finding significant outswing to add to his speed, while Krejza created opportunities with his turn and Kumar Sangakkara was looking determined to bat through the innings, having reached 73 not out.

"I think it might have been a pretty good game of cricket," Ponting said. "They had Sangakkara who played particularly well. At that stage of the game, 30 overs in and 140 on the board, we felt like we needed to make another breakthrough before the ball change, or around the ball change.

"If we had done that around then and tried to expose their middle order, they had a longer tail today because they played all their spinners. I think we were only one breakthrough away, but saying that they had batted pretty well and it would have been a difficult run-chase considering the way the wicket was playing. I think it would have been a decent game of cricket. I'm disappointed for the crowd more than anything today."

The Australians will fly to Bangalore on Sunday and will have two days off before they start to prepare for their matches against Kenya and Canada. Sri Lanka head to Kandy to take on Zimbabwe on Thursday, before they leave home and tackle New Zealand in Mumbai.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 124 
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Posted by Patrick on (March 8, 2011, 8:00 GMT)

The pitch next to it had plenty of grass and the one prepared for the Australians to play on had none. Everyone over there, including groundsmen it seems, wants Australia to finally lose a World Cup game. Well if this is the only way they can do it.

Posted by bira on (March 8, 2011, 3:57 GMT)

@all the people who say this was a spin friendly and doctored wicket tell me one wicket which fell to a spinner? Krezja and Smith bowled 12 overs between them and didn't get one wicket. Of the 3 wickets that fell one was because the batsmen had a 'red mist' over his eyes and swiped at anything he saw and the other 2 was fielding brilliance. This was a truly sporting pitch favouring both bat and ball. If Australia didn't bring horses for courses they shouldn't whine about it. @ Sam2x SL won that series because we took the right team to OZ. @ meety: yes SL are good enough to take on OZ in any wicket at the moment but why not expose their weekness. They just don't have the right combination for the sub continent and that's why Ricky complains so much. Would've been a cracker of a match though!!!

Posted by Dshan on (March 8, 2011, 3:34 GMT)

For sure SL could have win that game..against aussee...bcz the pitch was spinning really..& SL had front line spriners in the world...PONTING just thanking to the GOD of RAIN....

Posted by Andrew on (March 7, 2011, 23:58 GMT)

@landonius - well said re: Mumbai, I was wondering if it was that match being referred to!!!

Posted by Devinda on (March 7, 2011, 10:10 GMT)

ozs should stop complainig about spinning tracks and start learning how 2 play ov them.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 7, 2011, 7:03 GMT)

There're world class batsmen in Sachin, Ponting, Kallis and few others...But Sanga is the only Super World Class Batsman in the world and he proved that again in this match against Aussies...Aussie "fast trio" looked like school cricket seamers when Sanga was batting...True Class!!

Posted by Cricinfouser on (March 7, 2011, 4:28 GMT)

I remember World Series involving Pakistan, India and Australia. When India Played with Australia pitches were lush green. And when Pakistan played on same pitches there were harldly any grass on same wickets. They did it because they lost very first match at Gabba very badly chasing a moderate score against Pakistan.

Posted by Andrew on (March 7, 2011, 4:15 GMT)

@ sam2x - it was actually 2-1, but I don't want to rain on a good story! LOL!

@ALL - re the pitch; in the end of the day there isn't ANY complaints coming from the ACTUAL OZ cricketers. Just some loud mouth bloggers (myself included), commenting on the pitch. The defensive nature of some of the retorts are interesting though. Anyways it was looming as a good game, I thought SL were heading for a score around 220, depending on if Kumar batted another 5 to 10 overs, (IF he batted thru to the end maybe 260). Given 220, I think that Oz would of been pretty confident of chasing that down. I think the key would NOT be the SL spinners but whether Malinga bowled well. I could see Oz milking Murali for about 35 runs. SL have the capabilities of easily using 35 overs of spin. I think as Malinga averages over 30 against Oz we could of taken 60 off him. That leaves 135 runs off 2 f/t spinners + 1 p/t spinner & a pacer - total of 30 overs. Hopefully next time - NO RAIN!!!

Posted by Adam on (March 7, 2011, 2:23 GMT)

Is it possible for SL to apply to the ICC to have the match awarded to them? There seems very little doubt that SL 'would have' won the game - certainly amongst the comments here. So how about it? SL fans - support your team and demand the awarding of those points!

Posted by hayden on (March 7, 2011, 1:55 GMT)

look saying rolled mud in columbo is justified as perth and brisbane are fast doesnt add up. a sporting wicket in a ODI match must produce the same carry and bounce for all 100 overs! perth and brisbane meet this criteria, that abomination at colombo doesnt! i have nothing against sri lanka producing a pitch to get an advantage (i love cricket for the variety of conditions it offers the world over) but it must be done to a lesser extent than this! one thing we can all agree on is that the game was shaping up as a cracker! good thing aus is back in sri lanka later in the year where they can pick up the contest over a more prolonged series! cant wait!

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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