Improved Australia have score to settle
Big PictureTwo teams that failed to reach this stage in the 2008 tournament in Malaysia have a shot at redemption and going all the way. Both Australia and Sri Lanka have been in terrific form through this tournament and the way they each brushed aside their opponents in the quarters was indicative of that.
Both experienced similar fortunes on their way to the semi-finals. They finished second in their respective groups in the league phase, losing a game each. However, they should be familiar with each other's strengths and weaknesses because, less than a year ago, Sri Lanka traveled to Australia to play a five-match ODI series in Darwin. The tourists won 3-2, so Australia have a score to settle in this knockout game.
Sri Lanka have had a busy build-up to this tournament, playing 23 ODIs since last May. Aside from the Australia tour, it included a tour of Bangladesh and South Africa, the latter being the warm-up for the ongoing tournament in New Zealand. They began the year badly, losing 4-1 to Bangladesh before bouncing back in Australia. They hosted a tri-series, also featuring Pakistan and Bangladesh towards the end of the year and claimed the title. They failed to make the final of their next tri-series, in South Africa, but have rebounded well in the World Cup so far.
Form guideThey began their campaign on a comfortable note, brushing aside Zimbabwe by eight wickets, and thrashing Canada by 134 runs. Things didn't click in a low-scoring final league game against group toppers New Zealand, but they quickly regrouped in style with an eye-catching performance against tournament runners-up South Africa, beating them by 146 runs.
The Australians, on the other hand, spent the whole of 2009 at home and haven't been as busy as their opponents. In fact, their form leading to the World Cup wasn't impressive, having lost home ODI series to Sri Lanka and India as well, going down 2-1 to the Under-19 champions. Their fortunes changed in New Zealand with two thumping wins against minnows USA (108 runs) and Ireland. Their second game was virtually a walkover, as the Irish crumbled to 65 in a heavy 209-run defeat. They very nearly made it three in a row in a high-scoring game in Queenstown but South Africa held their nerve to win by two wickets. They were up against New Zealand in the quarter-finals and managed to choke the hosts with a disciplined bowling performance in Rangiora.
Both teams go into this game with an exact 50-50 win-loss record in ODIs since 2009. Australia have won and lost six games each while Sri Lanka have played 23 and won and lost 11 games each. Not much to separate these two sides in terms of form. For the 1988 and 2002 champions, Australia, tomorrow's game will be treated as a rematch after Darwin.
Players to watchLeading the way among the batsmen is Tim Armstrong, who's currently sixth in the run charts with 199. Their middle order has also chipped in with useful scores when the openers have failed. They also have a potent seam attack in Josh Hazlewood and Alister McDermott, both of whom have first-class experience.
Sri Lanka have a strong batting lineup and they will look to their star batsman Bhanuka Rajapaksa, to lead the way. An attacking left-hander, Rajapaksa is the fourth-highest run getter in the tournament so far with 203 runs, including two half-centuries and that has already fetched him two Man-of-the-Match awards. The left-arm seamer Charith Jayampathi is also in the top ten with nine wickets. They have the makings of a good all-round side. What remains to be seen is how they tackle the moving ball.
Quotes"We played against Sri Lanka up in Darwin and lost to them 3-2, but it's a new game tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. Freddie (coach Brian McFadyen) said today that they have eight left-handers in their team out of the 11 that will play so that will be interesting."
Alister McDermott, son of former Australian fast bowler Craig, says the Australians haven't forgotten their loss to Sri Lanka last year
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo