Australia duly claimed their place in the #Cricket World Cup quarter-finals, beating the equally impressive Sri Lankans by 64 runs in Sydney. Despite the visitors making a valiant attempt to chase the formidable target of 377 down, including another century by the run machine that is Kumar Sangakkara, it was Glenn Maxwell's second-fastest century in the history of the competition that probably tilted the game the co-hosts' way.
The Baggy Greens have not had it their own way in the tournament so far, with many expecting them to sweep all before them on their way to overall victory. They started in blistering fashion, hammering the English in their opening game, but were then frustrated with a wash-out against Bangladesh. The marginally sharper New Zealanders then edged a tight match, before the Aussies returned to form with another comprehensive triumph over Afghanistan.
Beating the Sri Lankans with another commanding display now sets them up nicely for the last-eight battles to come. They were positive from the off, electing to take the first knock in an effort to bat their opponents out of the game. That was achieved thanks to some solid mid-order scores from Steve Smith (72) and Michael Clarke (68), after the loss of two early wickets, including the ever-dangerous David Warner for 9. Maxwell then did what he does better than probably anyone else in the World Cup, plundering runs at a frighteningly rapid rate. His century came off a staggering 51 balls, only one ball more than Ireland's Kevin O'Brien in the last World Cup against England. It was Maxwell's first ODI international century, but one suspects that his 102 will not remain his highest score for too long. Shane Watson, recalled to the team, also chipped in handy runs at number six with 67, as the Aussies posted a substantial 376-9.
It seemed an unlikely run chase, even for a side with the batting capabilities of the Sri Lankans. Lahiru Thirimanne was out for just 1, but his side remained in the contest with 62 from Tillakaratne Dilshan and a splendid 104 from Sangakkara, his third successive century at the World Cup. That was another first for this year's tournament and a perfect example of what the cricket world will miss when the great man exits the ODI stage at the end of his side's involvement in the event. Dilshan seemed to take a fondness to Mitchell Johnson's bowling, smashing him for six boundaries in one over. With those two out, it became more of a struggle for the Lions, although Dinesh Chandimal added 52 off 24 balls batting at six, before a hamstring injury forced his retirement. Their resistance was finally ended on 312-9, with James Faulkner taking 3-48 including the prized wickets of Dilshan and Sangakkara. Mitchell Starc again starred with the ball with 2-29.Both of these sides look capable of getting to the semi-finals and maybe beyond, although the Aussies look like they will be hard for anyone to defeat on this form.