ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

A clash of contrasting bowling philosophies

The headline duel is between the bowling attacks of Australia and Sri Lanka, an expected battle between pace and spin and that is a relief, given how unkind Group B has been to bowlers

Osman Samiuddin in Colombo

March 4, 2011

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Lasith Malinga finished off Kenya with a hat-trick, Sri Lanka v Kenya, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 1, 2011
Sri Lanka's primary weapon will be spin, but Lasith Malinga lurks as a major threat © AFP

How straightforward Group A appears. Big teams beat little ones, jostle with each other for positions and off they go to the quarters. In contrast to Group B, where Ireland, England, Bangladesh and the West Indies have provided major palpitations, this group of non-death has moved along at a steady heartbeat, an occasional mild blip disturbing the quorum.

There's only been one real crackerjack game, last weekend's Pakistan-Sri Lanka encounter, and even that was soon eclipsed by two games at the Chinnaswamy. But Saturday's encounter at the Premadasa between Sri Lanka and Australia is a big game, even if it might be without grave consequence. That should, the hope is, free both sides to provide the kind of game they are eminently capable of: attractive, intense and tight.

The headline duel is between the bowling attacks of the sides, an expected battle between pace and spin and that is a relief. Group B games in India, riveting as they have been, have removed bowlers from the equation of cricket altogether, among the primary reasons the format is said to be struggling. Not so at the Premadasa, which, like a benevolent judge, has so far granted favour to those only who deserve it, be they batsmen, fast bowlers, spinners or otherwise.

Australia's reliance on pace is commendable, in a bulldozing kind of way because it goes against the supposed grain of subcontinent thinking. You wouldn't expect a former fast man of the pedigree of Waqar Younis to say otherwise, but there is merit even in his simple logic: most sides will have fast bowlers bowl 30 overs out of 50. Automatically their role is correspondingly important.

But in Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson, Australia have as fiercely quick and penetrative a trio as any in this tournament. It isn't subtle and on off days each can become one-dimensional but it is relentless. With pace, that is often enough. Sri Lanka's batsmen, however, will provide their first real test.

The hosts are openly talking about playing three spinners and given how Australia have gone against spin in the warm-up games, the strategy has considerable merit. All angles are covered if Rangana Herath joins Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. However, none of them are bursting with recent wickets and Mendis seems not to have moved on from 2008.

But runs will not come easy off them, specifically Muralitharan, as Pakistan found. Nervous glances at the scoreboard will become more frequent, the horns and drums will get louder, the fielders closer, the angles tighter, the overs quicker, the runs less forthcoming; death by Sri Lanka is a slow, drawn-out frenzy. Bear in mind, Australia haven't played an ODI in Sri Lanka, in this atmosphere, for just over seven years.

The subheads are equally, if not more, intriguing and invert the main battles. Lasith Malinga is back - a paceman fit to take his place among any company and, importantly, he is in rhythm. Ricky Ponting recognises the threat. In an earlier age, Jason Krejza would've been a king spinner. Today he is an anomaly, a spinner unafraid to buy wickets. He will like the surface, but the batsmen will be another matter altogether.

Ultimately, we should be grateful to Darrel Hair for giving contests between the two a little modern heat. Some locals feel there is still no sweeter victory than that which comes against the Australians. The World Cup is a fitting stage for it, having hosted semi-finals and finals between the two sides, as well as the forfeited game of 1996.

Australia have had the better of it (Sri Lanka are by no means alone in being on the losing end of a rivalry with Australia), having won six of seven games and none of them have been close. But that was a different Australia and, as Kumar Sangakkara noted, a different Sri Lanka. The last ODI series between the two, late last year, had a defining feel about it. There is the belief now of equality.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 43 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 12:05 GMT)

@ cric_fanatics, the story would be different at this time. Good luck for you and for my self (Pakistan)

Posted by avinash on (March 5, 2011, 10:38 GMT)

@ Muhammad Usman Iqbal.....And i want to see pakistan knocked out by india..as usual....

Posted by Calvin on (March 5, 2011, 8:52 GMT)

I think Lanka can win easily unless the Aussies are determined to give them a run for their money.

Posted by Steve on (March 5, 2011, 8:48 GMT)

With 15 minutes to go and an intriguing contest ahead I can't help but wonder which Michell Johnson will show up? I suspect it will be MJ - friend of Sri lanka and as Lee can go for a bundle it could well be 100 runs off the first 10 overs! On the other hand......

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 8:22 GMT)

I want to see Pakistan VS SiriLanka worldcup final and obviously Pak as winner :-)

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 5, 2011, 7:37 GMT)

COME ON LANKA ALL PAKISTANIS ARE WITH U .kangaroo stew in dinner for LANKANS today :)

Posted by padhaaku on (March 5, 2011, 7:29 GMT)

i ant aus to lose at any conditions

Posted by Nadeem on (March 5, 2011, 7:17 GMT)

It is so simple, if australia wins today they will win the worldcup again. I have no doubt that if you can play well all 3 spinners in Srilanka and win then there is no ground in sub continent where you cannot win.

Srilanka needs to break the 31 game streak of Australia, if not then remember next WC is in Australia that means 50 straight win in WC are confirmed.

Srilanka do it today or curse it for next five years.

Australia will miss Michael hussey today for sure.

Posted by Anil on (March 5, 2011, 7:14 GMT)

Sri lanka should bring Perea in place of Samawere. Ajantha + Murali. Dilshan should take the foot off the padel to play a good 30 over with Tharange to give the side good foundation for big total. if Sri lanka lose dilshan too early play a allrounder before Mahela so he could be there to finsh. Good luck

Posted by aaditya on (March 5, 2011, 6:52 GMT)

this shud be a gud game!!the two teams are definitely the top contenders and hav a gr8 bowling line-up!!oz dont hav an experienced spinner but 4 man pace battery which bowls at 150 is gud on most tracks!sl hav a more balanced attack with good spinners,and x-factor in pace provided by slinga malinga!!the edge wud be with sl coz they r playing at home and hav an experienced batting line-up!!malinga is a big trump card in big games!his action is so unorthodox,that unless u hav played him earlier he is going to be very difficult!!even viv richards in one of the tv shows admitted that he wud rather face malinga from studio than on the pitch!doesnt mean gr8 man wud hav struggled but he surely wud hav been comfortable against him!sl are favourites for this game but if aus opening bowlers can hav a good spell then the result may go the other way!!any way,a gr8 contest!!looking forward!!

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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