When Australia lost 4 wickets in the 33rd over for 177, no one would have dreamt of the final score of 376 in the remaining 16 overs and 3 balls. But that was made possible yesterday in match no.32 at the SCG by a punkish figure. The cult of Glenn Maxwell is oozing out of his scintillating performances for Kings XI Punjab in the 2014 IPL and spilling into the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The Force Maxwell reached its zenith on March 8, 2015 as the batsman banged Sri Lankan bowlers without a tinge of mercy and ransacked their bowling figures with a 52-ball 102 to take the score from 177 to 337 in the 47th over. Another 39 were added by Watson and Haddin as the Australian total zoomed to 376/9 at the end of 50 overs. This World Cup has seen countless matches with 300-plus scores and teams have chased 300-plus as well but 377 was a tad too much. Sri Lanka didn’t give up and went out purposefully to make a match out of it. Despite brave efforts from Dilshan and the masterly Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka could only manage 312 in the end. To add to Sri Lanka’s woes, a threatening blitz from Dinesh Chandimal had to be cut short after the batsman sustained injury in his leg. Jayawardane was run out and Sanga departed after scoring his century. With Sri Lanka losing their last 6 wickets for just 29 runs, Australia cruised to a 64-run victory. Now Australia has moved to the second place behind New Zealand in the points’ table and in all likelihood, they will face Pakistan in the quarterfinal if the next sets of league games do not produce strange results.
Michael Clarke had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss but Australia lost both openers by the 9th over for just 41 on the scoreboard. This early setback brought Steven Smith and Michael Clarke together. The two classy batsmen in the Australian side batted in a businesslike manner and avoided all risky strokes. Their 134-run stand lent the necessary solidarity but they consumed many overs and could barely reach a run-rate of around 5 per over. After scoring 68 off 68 balls, Clarke was the first to get out in the 32nd over, when he tried to flick Lasith Malinga. Clarke was a tad too slow as the ball went through and uprooted the base of the stumps. Glenn Maxwell walked in only to see the back of Smith in the next over. Smith had made 72 off 88 balls, when he tried to loft Dilshan but found Thisara Perera under the skier. It was 177/4 in 32.3 overs at that stage.
Then the transformation took place. Maxwell took 7 runs off the 34th over and 13 off the next. Off the 37th, Maxwell blasted Prasanna and collected 16. The 38th over bowled by Malinga went for 16 but Maxwell’s contribution was only 4 as Shane Watson did the bulk of the scoring. In the 39th over Maxwell reached his 50 off just 26 balls. After 40 overs, Australia were 253/4. Runs began flowing in a torrent afterwards with both Watson and Maxwell matching each other. Watson reached his 50 and Maxwell his 100 in the same 46th over. When Maxwell got out after making 102 off 52 balls, Australia had reached 337/5. Watson too departed in the 49th but by that time he and Haddin had taken the score to 368/7. In the last over Mathews yielded just 8 runs as Australia reached 376/9.
Sri Lanka began the 377-run chase by losing Lahiru Thirimanne in the second over. But that brought Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara together. The two batsmen added 130 for the second wicket in good time. Sangakkara carried on with Mahela Jayawardane after Dilshan fell. They added another 53 for the next wicket but scoring rate dropped as the Australians applied pressure. Sanga completed his third consecutive ODI century but lost Jayawardane to an unfortunate run-out. In the 34th over, Sangakkara also got out. When things began looking dismal for Sri Lanka, Dinesh Chandimal came up with a blistering 24-ball 52 but to Sri Lanka’s bad luck, Chandimal had to retire after he sustained an injury that impaired his running. When Angelo Mathews got out, all hopes vanished for Sri Lanka. They crossed 300 but could only manage another 12 after that to lose the tie by 64 runs.