Ricky Leads from Front for Aussies

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

RICKY PONTING made a wonderful century and Adam Gilchrist missed out on another by the narrowest of margins as Australia's mission to sweep all before them in the World Cup gathered yet more momentum here today.

Starting the 'Super Six' second stage with a perfect record and convinced they could win every game in this competition, the holders blazed their way to 319 for five against Sri Lanka.

Vice-captain Gilchrist roared to 99 from 88 balls - only to finish nine inches short of safety when Chaminda Vaas's direct hit from near the midwicket boundary beat his attempt to complete a second run for Ponting.

But the skipper was not to be shortchanged. Ponting soared to 114 from 109 deliveries before miscuing a hook in the final stages of an innings that at one point was on course to top 330.

Sri Lanka's hopes suffered a crushing blow during the second over of their reply. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya was taken to hospital after being struck near his left wrist by a sharply climbing delivery from Brett Lee.

With Lee stooping low to hold a sharp return catch from Marvan Atapattu before finding the outside edge of Mahela Jayawardene's bat, Sri Lanka were soon tottering.

When Glenn McGrath then bowled Hashan Tillekeratne between bat and pad and Lee pinned Russel Arnold in front of his stumps,serious embarrassment loomed at 48 for four.

The underdogs had been up against it all day. Vaas, their usually dangerous swing bowler, conceded 35 runs from his first five overs as the new ball refused to deviate for him.

Gilchrist pulled, cut and drove with awesome power and precision, leaving Jayasuriya with no option but to introduce Muttiah Muralitharan earlier than planned. Still, at least that worked out okay for Sri Lanka with their champion dismissing Matthew Hayden during his second over via a bat-pad catch to silly point.

Hayden had contributed 22 to a 12 over stand of 75 but, with Ponting quickly into his stride and Murali instantly withdrawn from the attack, the next partnership was soon growing in leaps and bounds. …

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