12th ODI, The Oval

Australia v Sri Lanka

At The Oval, June 17 (day/night). Sri Lanka won by 20 runs. Toss: Australia.
All four teams in the group had an interest in the outcome of this game. England, assured of a semi-final, would be knocked into second place (and a match against India) if Sri Lanka prevailed by a wide margin. New Zealand would progress if Australia came out on top, but not too convincingly. A win of any sort was enough for Sri Lanka, while Australia's hopes of qualification rested on a crushing victory. The complexities lent the contest a paradoxical air: only when Australia threw in the semi-final towel and throttled back did they glimpse success - while, not for the last time during the summer, their most accomplished partnership was the tenth-wicket pair. Bailey put Sri Lanka in so his team would know precisely how many overs they had in which to squeeze past New Zealand on net run-rate. They were buoyed when an uncharacteristically lazy drive from Sangakkara, the Oval master of four days before, lollipopped to point and, on a pitch offering bounce and gentle turn, the Sri Lankans never quite hit cruising speed. Jayawardene was a nerveless presence, threading cut after glide after clip through the infield to ensure a half-decent total. The crucial number for Australia was not really 254 but 29.1 - if they managed to win by the first ball of the 30th over, they would live on. They gave it leather, Maxwell in particular, but the helter-skelter runs came at too high a cost and, at 127 for six in the 20th over, the game within a game was up. Voges, though, clung on, if forlornly. And had Johnson appreciated the situation - he had neither scoreboard pressure nor demons in the pitch to worry about - rather than adopting brainless-slog mode, the defending champions might have gained a consolation victory. Without fuss or bother, the last pair added 41, and the celebrations that greeted Dilshan's sharp return catch betrayed the rising panic in the Sri Lankan ranks.
Man of the Match: D. P. M. D. Jayawardene. Attendance: 17,915.

© John Wisden & Co.