Dubai: A few days before the ICC T20 World Cup got under way, Brett Lee — the Australian fast bowling legend — said in his column that David Warner was possibly saving the runs for Australia. It could have been a manner of speaking to pep up the out-of-form former Australian vice-captain after his IPL misadventure, but his words rang true on Thursday evening.
It’s a pity that a promising Sri Lankan side had to bear the brunt of Warner and his captain Aaron Finch, two veterans who have done it many a time for their country in their white-ball campaigns. The tone was set when these two raced to 63 at the end of power play in chasing a competitive target of 155.
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There was, of course, a blemish during that phase when Warner’s dolly catch was dropped by wicketkeeper Kushal Perera when he was on 18, but the manner in which the Australians chased the target drove home their intent. The way the Big Three of Australian batting — Warner, Finch and Steve Smith took the game by the scruff of the neck — it showed they not only meant business but also wanted to finish off the match early with an eye on the run-rate in a ‘Group of Death.’
When Warner eventually left for a characteristically busy 65 off only 42 balls, Australia were 130 for three after 15 overs and it was a matter of time as to when they would reach their goal. Their leg spinner Waanindu Hasaranga struck with two wickets all right, but the Lankan spinners failed to make much of dent in near-perfect batting conditions.
Sri Lanka, who had been playing some decent cricket throughout the qualifiers, may have lost their first game in the tournament — but they were not disgraced either. Sent into bat, they shrugged off the early loss of one of their openers before Perera, Charith Asalanka and Bhanu Rajapaksa launched into some fearless strokemaking against a world class pace attack comprising of the elder statesman Mitchell Starc, the in-form Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Cummins, who skipped the UAE leg of the IPL to stay fresh for this tournament as well as the Ashes, ran in with gusto while Starc summoned all his experience for the yorkers and slower ones to finish with two valuable wickets.
The Man of the Match award, however, went to Adam Zampa for the turning point he provided in the game. Asalanka and Perera were freeing their arms and put on a priceless 63-run stand for the second wicket and looked good for more till Zampa struck to remove the dangerous Asalanka. He also removed the in-form Avishka Fernando cheaply and the quick fall of four wickets put the skids on Sri Lanka.
They still put managed to put a competitive total on the board with Rajapaksa striking some lusty blows, but the Australians were unstoppable this evening. Watch this space to hear more about them.