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Australia, Sri Lanka target survival with first win in ODI World Cup

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It is hard to remember when Australia had looked this flat in a World Cup. Especially in the sub-continent where they won their first ODI World Cup in 1987, reached the final in 1996 and lost to eventual champions India in the quarterfinals in 2011. The all-play-all format in the 10-team tournament offers plenty of cushion, but Pat Cummins’ team are still under pressure to turn things around.

Sri Lanka, their opponents on Monday, are in an equally poor shape with both teams having lost their opening two matches. Still, the islanders could be more at home if the Ekana Stadium pitch plays slow and makes strokeplay tough. There was a time when Australia versus Sri Lanka had a lot of needle. The mood this time though is one of survival in both camps.

Australia are close to the bottom of the table with a net run rate of -1.846. Cummins sees a ‘mini crisis’ and Monday’s game will indicate how they arrest the slide. Australia’s batting is a major concern. They were dismissed for 199 and 177 against India and South Africa respectively and no batter has managed a fifty. They held the lowest batting average at 18.80. Besides, in their most recent ODI meetings with Sri Lanka, in a five-match series in 2022, the hosts won 3-2.

“We’ve got to start winning and start doing that quickly; every game now becomes almost like a final, you’ve got to win just about all of them.” Cummins said on Sunday. “Our start has not been ideal, but we want to secure our first win and are hopeful of a turnaround.

“I’ve been playing for the side for a long time, but we haven’t met the standards we like to uphold. We’ve been off the mark and outplayed in both games. When we’re at our best, we put substantial runs on the board, applying pressure on the opposition. Our bowlers take wickets through the middle. Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to combine any of that so far,” he said.

Cummins preferred to look at the positives, and the campaign four years ago. “The atmosphere in the camp has been fantastic. Everyone is in high spirits, desperate to turn things around. In 2019, India and South Africa were the two teams we lost to in the round games. In the last year, they’ve been the two teams we’ve had the most trouble against. The opportunity now lies in facing teams we haven’t played against for a while but have had significant success against. We should approach these games with confidence.”

Against India, the batting failed against spinners as they lost by six wickets. The bowlers, despite removing Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishen and Shreyas Iyer without scoring could not drive home the advantage. Against South Africa, they dropped at least three easy catches after electing to bowl and then found the chase getting tougher on a difficult pitch, losing by 134 runs.

“I thought we bowled well towards the end of that innings, and to be fair, South Africa’s bowling was impressive throughout the game. The cutters seemed effective in the last match, and even with a slightly larger field here, that should work to our advantage on this wicket,” Cummins said.

Sri Lanka are grappling with their own crisis. Skipper Dhasun Shanaka is out of the tournament following a quadriceps injury. The in-form keeper-batter Kusal Mendis, who hit a 77-ball 122 against Pakistan for his best ODI score, will have the added responsibility of captaincy. He has a decent ODI record against Australia though (11 inngs, 453 runs, avg 50.33).

“I am very happy to do leadership and it’s not pressure for me,” Mendis said. “I always play my normal game and don’t feel I need to change my batting style.” Mendis said: “We can play with confidence. We have already discussed our plans to rectify our mistakes. Unfortunately, I had a cramp after scoring 122 against Pakistan, but it’s back to normal to play my usual game.”

Source: Hindustan Times

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