LONDON   -  Australia moved to the top of the World Cup group table as heroics from Aaron Finch and Mitchell Starc secured an 87-run win over Sri Lanka. Finch’s 153 off 132 balls helped pile on 334-7 at The Oval, with Steve Smith adding 73.

Sri Lanka got off to a flying start as captain Dimuth Karunaratne made 97 and Kusal Perera 52. But Starc’s 4-55 and 3-47 from Kane Richardson ripped out their middle order to leave them 247 all out.

A fourth win from five games moves Australia a point clear of New Zealand at the top of the table - a position they may retain until their next game on Thursday. Despite having now beaten Afghanistan, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they have had their concerns on both the batting and bowling front.

Starc’s figures took his tournament wicket tally to 13 and proved equally as vital as his closing-over spells against both West Indies and Pakistan. Australia, whose only defeat so far came against India, next face Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday knowing another win could see them put one foot in the last four.

Sri Lanka’s second defeat from five games, having had their past two fixtures abandoned without a ball being bowled, leaves their quest for a semi-final place in the balance. They next face hosts England at Headingley on Friday.

Captain Finch led from the front for Australia and showed no fear about having to bat first under cloudy skies and a stiff breeze. He got off the mark first ball with a brilliantly-timed back-foot cover drive for four and reached his century 96 balls later with his fourth six, clearing the long-off rope.

The opener’s 14th ODI ton and his second in a World Cup fixture would see him go on to reach 150 off just 128 balls as he crashed the last of his 15 fours with a one-bounce pull shot over mid-wicket. But just as he seemed to be winding up for a big onslaught in the closing overs and the chance to join an exclusive club of those to score 200 in an ODI, he fell for a career-best-equalling 153 from 132 balls.

It moved him comfortably clear as the competition’s leading run-scorer and level with England’s Jason Roy for the highest individual score. That was helped in large part by a third-wicket partnership of 173 off 124 balls with Steve Smith (73), who himself registered his third half-century of this World Cup.

While Australia’s innings arguably lost some momentum in the closing overs with a flurry of middle-order wickets going down, Glenn Maxwell’s unbeaten 46 off 25 balls took them to 334-7.

Finch’s 153 and Starc’s 4-55 once again demonstrated both the individual brilliance and the fragility of this Australia side.

As Sri Lanka’s openers plundered the best opening powerplay of the tournament to date with 87-0 in their first 10 overs, a shock win looked on the cards.

But cometh the hour cometh the man - Starc once again striking the decisive blows, just as he did when Pakistan threatened to chase down 308 in Australia’s last match.

 

Scorecard

AUSTRALIA:

D Warner b de Silva 26

A Finch c Karunaratne b Udana 153

U Khawaja c Udana b de Silva 10

S Smith b Malinga 73

G Maxwell not out 46

S Marsh c Siriwardana b Udana 3

A Carey run out 4

P Cummins run out 0

M Starc not out 5

EXTRAS: (lb4, nb1, w9) 14

TOTAL: (7 wkts; 50 overs) 334

FOW: 1-80, 2-100, 3-273, 4-278, 5-310, 6-317, 7-320

BOWLING: S Malinga 10-1-61-1, N Pradeep 10-0-88-0, I Udana 10-0-57-2, T Perera 10-0-67-0, D de Silva 8-0-40-2, M Siriwardana 2-0-17-0

SRI LANKA:

Karunaratne c Maxwell b Richardson 97

K Perera b Starc 52

L Thirimanne c Carey b Behrendorff 16

K Mendis c Carey b Starc 30

A Mathews c Carey b Cummins 9

M Siriwardana b Starc 3

T Perera c Warner b Starc 7

D de Silva not out 16

I Udana c Finch b Richardson 8

S Malinga c Khawaja b Richardson 1

N Pradeep c Carey b Cummins 0

EXTRAS: (lb2, w6) 8

TOTAL: (all out; 45.5 overs) 247

FOW: 1-115, 2-153, 3-186, 4-205, 5-209, 6-217, 7-222, 8-236, 9-237, 10-247

BOWLING: M Starc 10-0-55-4; P Cummins 7.5-0-38-2; J Behrendorff 9-0-59-1; K Richardson 9-1-47-3; G Maxwell 10-0-46-0

TOSS: Sri Lanka

MAN OF MATCH: Aaron Finch

UMPIRES: Aleem Dar, R Illingworth

TV UMPIRE: Michael Gough

MATCH REFEREE: Jeff Crowe

POINTS TABLE

Pos Team Played Won Lost N/R Net RR Points

1 AUSTRALIA        5 4 1 0 +0.812 8

2 NEW ZEALAND   4 3 0 1 +2.163 7

3 ENGLAND           4 3 1 0 +1.557 6

4 INDIA                3 2 0 1 +0.539 5

5 SRI LANKA         5 1 2 2 -1.778 4

6 WEST INDIES     4 1 2 1 +0.666 3

7 SOUTH AFRICA   5 1 3 1 -0.208 3

8 BANGLADESH     4 1 2 1 -0.714 3

9 PAKISTAN 4 1 2  1 -1.796 3

10 AFGHANISTAN  4 0 4 0 -1.638 0