ICC World Cup 2015: Australia vs Sri Lanka - Preview
Australia and Sri Lanka will be angling to avoid a potential World Cup quarter-final collision with South Africa as they face off in a crucial Pool A showdown on Sunday.
Sydney: Australia and Sri Lanka will be angling to avoid a potential World Cup quarter-final collision with South Africa as they face off in a crucial Pool A showdown on Sunday.
The 1996 winners Sri Lanka lead the Aussies by one point in the group standings and a win would clinch second spot in the pool behind leaders New Zealand.
But a defeat for either nation at the Sydney Cricket Ground would increase the possibility of finishing third in the group and thereby the likelihood of encountering the AB de Villiers-charged Proteas in the knockout round.
The heat is on Michael Clarke`s Australians to defuse Sri Lanka`s batting arsenal after going down by one wicket to New Zealand last weekend.
"A side that has won every one of their games, maybe they don`t have to worry too much," Sri Lanka`s batting leviathan Kumar Sangakkara said.
"But when you`re not in that situation, you might start thinking about who you`ll face in the quarter-finals and whether these wins have any bearing on what happens there.
"For us as well as Australia, it`ll be a very important game."
Australia, coming off a record 275-run thrashing of Afghanistan in Perth on Wednesday, will be favourites at the SCG to extend their World Cup dominance over Sri Lanka.
The Australians have beaten Sri Lanka six times in eight matches, including victory in the 2007 final in Barbados, while the Sri Lankans beat them in the 1996 tournament decider in Lahore.
"I think Sri Lanka are going to be a really tough team to beat," Clarke said.
"They like the SCG and they`re playing some really good cricket. They`ve got experience and I think that`s always an important part of a good team in major tournaments."
Sri Lanka smashed the third-highest run chase in tournament history to clinch a nine-wicket win over England in Wellington last Sunday.
Centuries by Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne ensured Sri Lanka reeled in the 310-run target, scoring 312-1 with 16 balls to spare.
Sangakkara`s 117 was his second successive century and his 23rd century in 401 one-day internationals. He will bid farewell to limited-overs cricket after the World Cup.
Australia, vying to win their fifth World Cup, dropped out-of-form veteran Shane Watson for returning all-rounder James Faulkner, promoted Steve Smith to No.3 and hit the highest World Cup score of 417-6 against the hapless Afghans.
"They`re one of the top teams in the tournament ... we will play as the underdogs," Sangakkara admitted.
"They had a poor game against New Zealand, but bounced back strongly. Every side has got weaknesses and strengths, but Australia are a very strong side."
Australia have a strong record at the SCG, but Sri Lanka have beaten them four times in 13 encounters at the famous ground and possess the formidable batting of Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews and Thirimanne to trouble any bowling attack.
Sri Lanka have confirmed spinner Rangana Herath will miss the game with a finger injury while batsman Dimuth Karunaratne suffered a tournament-ending broken finger batting in the nets.
Legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who worked as a spin consultant for Australia last year, said Sri Lanka have nothing to fear from Australia.
"The team has had a full week to rest up and prepare for the match against Australia while, for Michael Clarke`s side, it will be a third game in nine days," he said.
"Sri Lanka have three wins in a row, two of them with outstanding batting displays, should make the dressing room a good place to be and once again Sri Lanka are set to be a threat at the business end of a major event."