Australia v Sri Lanka
Saturday 15 June 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Australia have to improve
Australia can put one foot in the semi-finals with their fourth victory of the campaign here. They will reckon they are genuine World Cup contenders but it is hard not to have been impressed so far.
Their success over Pakistan in Taunton exposed, once again, their big weakness - their batting unit. From a position of dominance and on a tight ground, Australia should have threatened 400. Instead they collapsed from 277 for four to 307 all out.
Really, Pakistan should have won that match. That they didn't was down to an excellent bowling effort with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. And although we price bowling ability more than batting ability it is doubtful as to whether Australia can solve their issues with the willow.
After all, they have been pretty consistent with the bat in terms of struggling to post big scores, slowing down when they should be accelerating and suffering the odd collapse. With the likes of England, India and New Zealand setting the pace in terms of scoring rates, Australia aren't even holding on to coat-tails.
Of course, none of this is likely to matter in this contest. Sri Lanka are unlikely to test Australia over 100 overs.
At first glance of the table before the England-West Indies contest on Friday, Sri Lanka looked to be in contention in fifth spot. But if ever there was an example of the league table telling a dirty, great whopper it is this.
The Lankans have had two washouts, gifting them two points. They should count themselves lucky. It is doubtful as to whether there has been a weaker or more chaotic 'top eight' side in World Cup history and, without the weather coming to their aid they should have been scrabbling around to try to avoid finishing bottom.
On the two occasions they have made it onto the field they have been poor. They were fortunate that Afghanistan had a nosebleed when they were about to scale the summit of a Cup 'shock' after Sri Lanka had collapsed from 144 for one to 201 all out. Against New Zealand they were razed for 136. Something similar could be on the cards here.
Kusal Perera is their best hope with the bat for classy runs up front. Otherwise the likes of Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Isuru Udana could belt them towards respectability. Lasith Malinga is the only bowler they have who could be called potent.
Aussies have to go big
The last five nine-innings scores at The Oval (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second) read: 352-1/244-2/330-1/311-1/214-2/356-2/338-1/191-2/321-2. The wicket's reputation for runs is justified it would seem. It holds true as some of those big chases testify. Only Bangladesh have struggled for runs batting first in this World Cup. Australia must surely bust 330 if the bat first.
There's not much joy on the match odds market. Australia are no better than 1.141/7 with Sri Lanka 7.6013/2. Obviously given our criticism of Sri Lanka, it is hard for us to make a case for them - even a trade.
There is the very real possibility that we could nibble that price and then within a few overs it could be heading towards the stratosphere. There's not even rain to help reduce the overs, and therefore the gulf, with no wet stuff forecast.
Warner value - just
There's a smidge of value on David Warner for top Australia bat. With implied probability of 29.4% on two-year form Sportsbook rate him at 28.6% at 5/2. Not much, you might think, but significant when Aaron Finch is slightly overrated on the same data and Steve Smith is hugely overrated at 11/4. Smith has one win in 17 in this market. Warner should go well on a flat wicket against a weak bowling attack and it may remind him of his IPL stints, boffing sub-standard attacks around the park.
For Sri Lanka, Kusal is likely to be well-supported at 9/2. But against a hot Aussie new-ball attack it would not be in the least surprising if the top order was blow away, leaving Thisara with little to beat at 10/1 (Sportsbook).