ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Sri Lanka v Australia, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo
Australia escape spin challenge on 'rolled mud'
March 5, 2011
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."
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.