Australia were hustled out of the World Twenty20 last night as Sri Lanka booked their place in the Super Eights with a six-wicket Group C victory. The Indian Premier League star Tillekeratne Dilshan (53) dispatched the Australian attack to all corners of Trent Bridge on his way to 26-ball 50 at the top of the order. Then in pursuit of only 159 for nine, Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara (55no) did enough to complete the job with six balls to spare and end Australia's interest in the tournament. A previously unscheduled stay in Leicester therefore beckons, at the start of their Ashes summer, for Ricky Ponting's tourists from where their lot will be as outsiders looking in on a competition still containing their hosts, among nine countries hoping to reach the Lord's final on June 21. Ponting and his team were rarely in an advantageous position from the moment they were put in on a pitch which was to prove spin-friendly throughout. Their biggest problem was soon the bowling of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, who finished with three for 20 from his two sets of two overs in an innings which featured no individual contribution better than Mitchell Johnson and David Hussey's 28 each. It was long before Mendis was introduced, though, that Australia found their first spot of bother when the opener David Warner carved some width from Angelo Mathew straight to point to go for a third-ball duck. Ponting and Shane Watson then shared a 47-run stand in barely five overs until the introduction of Mendis interrupted Australian progress.
The spinner almost had Watson lbw with his very first ball and then ended his first over by bowling Ponting, hitting the leg stump as the Australia captain made room to drive. Mendis did get Watson lbw, sweeping in his next over and when Lasith Malinga (three for 36) bowled Brad Haddin with a high full toss and debutant Isuru Udana clung on left-handed to a return catch from Michael Clarke, Australia were in trouble on 79 for five in the 13th over. They had scored just 19 runs in the five overs from seven to 12 and after Hussey had the temerity to hit the returning Mendis for a straight six, his brother Mike paid the penalty when he was pinned lbw on the back foot in the same over.
Two Johnson sixes helped Australia take 21 from Muttiah Muralitharan's final over, and more handy late hitting from Hussey and Brett Lee took particular toll of Udana and ensured Sri Lanka's reply would have to achieve eight an over. But Dilshan quickly made that prospect appear less than taxing, despite the early loss of Sanath Jayasuriya who fell to a memorable catch by Warner on the square-leg boundary, intercepting what would have been a pulled six off Lee. Dilshan was entirely unfazed and quickly reeled off 10 boundaries against Australia's pace-orientated attack.
It was not until Clarke came on to spin one past an attempted drive that Australia got their man, breaking a damaging second-wicket stand of 62 in seven overs with Sangakkara. Sri Lanka's long tail made for some nail-biting to still to come. But Sangakkara batted sensibly and skilfully, with four fours and two successive sixes off Nathan Hauritz in his 50 and his team's perceived frailties in batting depth therefore never came into the equation. For Australia, the reliance on pace over spin on a surface and in a format which favoured the latter was clearly a telling factor. Lee's four overs cost 39 runs, and it was off his bowling that with the game more or less already won Jehan Mubarak drove through the despairing fingertips of Mike Hussey at mid-off for a four which erased all doubt about the outcome. When the end did come, it was in suitably deflating circumstances for Australia a Johnson wide providing Sri Lanka with the run they needed.
* PA Sport