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Australia v Sri Lanka: Aaron Finch & Mitchell Starc lead defending champions to victory

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.

Australia’s Mitchell Starc (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Milinda Siriwardana (L) for three during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Sri Lanka and Australia at The Oval in London on June 15, 2019. (Photo by Ian KINGTON / AFP) / 

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.

World Cup table

Finch’s fireworks lead the way

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. –