Cricket World Cup 2019: Aaron Finch’s 153 sets up Australia’s 334 against Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval
Aaron Finch soaks in his 14th ODI century, and first as World Cup captain. © AFP

LONDON: A 14th ODI century from Aaron Finch, and handy contributions from Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, have helped Australia score 334/7 against Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval on Saturday in match 20 of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

Finch continued his white-ball renaissance by scoring his third 50-plus score of the tournament, first dominating a stand of 80 for the opening wicket and then adding 173 with Smith. Australia’s skipper levelled his career-best ODI score, making 153 off 132 balls in a robust display of hitting.

Australia lost their way in the last five overs as Lasith Malinga and Isuru Udana varied their pace excellently, but Sri Lanka still need to achieve their highest chase at Kennington Oval. Two years ago, at this very ground, they chased 322 to beat India.

LIVE SCORECARD: AUSTRALIA vs SRI LANKA, KENNINGTON OVAL

The batting deck at Kennington Oval was not quite true, for plenty of deliveries didn’t hurry onto the bat, which makes Finch’s innings a rather excellent one. Malinga and the returning Nuwan Pradeep – out went Suranga Lakmal, surprisingly – allowed seven boundaries in the eight overs they bowled in tandem during the Powerplay. Every dot ball bowled by Malinga received cheer from the sizeable Sri Lankan support in the stands, and when Pradeep stuck his right foot out to intercept a firm drive down the track from Finch, the fans roared their appreciation.

The bigger picture, however, was that Warner and Finch saw out the pace pair and laid the foundations for another big partnership. Finch’s driving was confident and he beat cover and mid-off sumptuously to collect fours. Ominous signs indeed, as Finch thumped past the stumps and drilled the ball past cover. Three misfields in the span of eight deliveries added six runs to Australia’s total, and when an lbw review against Finch was unsuccessfully reviewed, Sri Lankan shoulders sagged.

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While Finch rattled along at over a run-a-ball, Warner reprised his scratchy innings at this same ground a week ago, against India. He struggled to force the ball away as Sri Lanka’s pace attack cleverly denied him room and kept him defending or nudging the ball to the onside. A few times he managed to perforate the gaps, but overall Warner was decidedly second fiddle to Finch.

He was bowled by Dhananjaya de Silva for 26 from 48 balls, ending the stand at 80. The second wicket came de Silva’s way too, when a very unconvincing Usman Khawaja, after being made to hop and sway by Pradeep, swept straight to deep midwicket for 10 off 20 balls.

Steve Smith coolly worked his way to 73 off 59 balls.(Image: Twitter/@cricketcomau)

Finch had crossed 50 by this time, and joined by Smith he set about recovering the innings. He took his six tally in the World Cup to ten with a hook off Pradeep, and two in two balls against de Silva hurried Finch towards his century. The landmark came up in 97 balls with another six, smashed over long-off, and Finch celebrated with wide arms and acknowledgement to all corners of the Oval.

Since going 21 limited-overs innings without a half-century, he has now scored crossed 50 eight times in 13.

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Smith, fidgety as always, tucked and steered his way to 73 from 59 deliveries without a fuss. Always alert to a quick single, any run missed brought Smith to vivid frustration. He helped Finch to his century and once he crossed his own half-century – welcomed by cheers drowning out the odd boo – Smith accelerated by swiping Malinga for six and hitting Pradeep for two fours.

Finch scored his last 52 runs off 35 balls in a flurry of boundaries, until one big swing too many saw him caught at cover off Udana. Five balls later, Smith played across the line of a well-directed yorker from Malinga and was bowled.

Maxwell signalled his mood by clattering Pradeep for four fours and a six in one over, but thanks to Malinga and Udana the runs slowed down. Malinga conceded four runs in the 46th over, Shaun Marsh ate up nine up balls for three runs before swinging Udana to the deep. Udana was brilliant off his own bowling to nail two direct hits in the 49th over to run out Alex Carey and Pat Cummins, which brought the Sri Lankan fans at the ground to their feet.

Udana finished with 2/57 in his ten, Maxwell on 46* of 25 balls.

Brief scores: Australia 334/7in 50 overs (Finch 153, Smith 73) vs Sri Lanka