Finch, Starc shine as Australia beat Sri Lanka in World Cup

Australia’s captain Aaron Finch hit a career-best 153 in spearheading his team to 334-7 against Sri Lanka at the Oval on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 15 June 2019

Finch, Starc shine as Australia beat Sri Lanka in World Cup

  • Defending champions record their fourth win of tournament at the Oval encounter

LONDON: Australia captain Aaron Finch and pace bowler Mitchell Starc stole the show as the holders eased to an 87-run win over Sri Lanka at the Oval on Saturday.

Finch equalled his career-best one-day international score with a masterful 153 and Steve Smith chipped in with 73 as Australia scored 334-7.

Needing a World Cup record run-chase to claim a shock win, Sri Lanka got off to a flying start thanks to a first-wicket partnership of 115 between captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera.

But Perera departed for 52 and when Karunaratne fell on 97 the game swung back in Australia’s direction.

Starc was the catalyst with a fiery spell of three wickets in six balls, Australia eventually dismissing Sri Lanka for 247 thanks in large part to his 4-55 from 10 overs.

Kane Williamson added three wickets of his own as Australia made it four wins from their five group matches after previously beating Afghanistan, the West Indies and Pakistan.

Their lone defeat in the 10-team tournament came against India and their latest victory puts them well on course for a semifinal berth.

Sri Lanka, who lost their last seven wickets for 42 runs, have only one win from their five matches, a disappointing run that includes two washouts.

They face a struggle to reach the semifinals with only four matches left, a spell that features encounters with title contenders England and India.

Sri Lanka had briefly looked capable of surpassing the World Cup chase set by Ireland, who made 329-7 to beat England in 2011.

Karunaratne and his opening partner Perera blasted 24 from the first two overs and reached their fifty partnership in just the seventh over.

But Starc bowled Perera and Jason Behrendorff dismissed Lahiru Thirimanne for 16 as Australia hit back.

A six from Kusal Mendis in the 31st over signalled Sri Lanka’s intent to get cracking.

But crucially Karunaratne stumbled short of his maiden World Cup century when he carelessly flicked Richardson to Glenn Maxwell at backward point.

That left Sri Lanka 186-3 and set the stage for Starc to turn the screw by dismissing Milinda Siriwardana, Thisara Perera and Mendis in quick succession.

Mendis’s mistimed drive off Starc reduced Sri Lanka to 222-7 and shattered their resistance.

Earlier, Finch took the Sri Lanka attack apart with a dazzling display that included 15 fours and five sixes.

He was well-supported by Smith’s 73 from 59 balls and the pair put on 173 runs for the third wicket.

Together with opening partner David Warner, Finch took the attack to the Sri Lankans after being put in to bat under cloudy skies in south London.

The pair passed 50 for the opening wicket for the fourth time in five games at the World Cup.

Sri Lanka had no answer to Finch’s brutal assault and by the time he departed, caught by Karunaratne off Isuru Udana, he had put Australia in a commanding position.

Maxwell’s quick-fire 46 from 25 balls rubbed salt into Sri Lanka’s wounds.


World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

Updated 25 January 2020

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

  • Saudi International is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week
  • Second edition of the tournament, which is part of the European Tour

JEDDAH: The Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week from Jan. 30 — Feb. 2.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shared his thoughts about his chances ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club.

Q. You’re currently on the verge of breaking into the top 10 players to have spent longest at world #1. What does that mean to you and are records something you’re driven by?
Brooks Koepka: It’s great to be world number one, and I want to stay there but being number one is really a by-product of playing well, which is my first aim. There are lots of other world-class golfers playing well at the moment and this week is a good chance to win some valuable points to keep me at the top.

Q. Your often-discussed record in majors proves that you are a golfer who can play arguably his best golf under the greatest of pressures. Where do you think this coolness on the big stage comes from?
BK: I think it’s just because I am very competitive, and I love to win. No athlete plays a sport just to take part: everyone wants to win. That drives me to play my best golf when it really matters. I also work hard off the course so that I am as prepared as I can be when I get into the heat of competition.

Q. The Saudi International marks your second tournament back from injury (knee). How are you feeling heading into it?
BK: I’m feeling really good. It’s going to be my second tournament since October, so I am excited to get back on the course and compete against some of the world’s best players. It’s never a good thing being injured but I’ve come back from injury well before. In some ways it gives you a chance to recharge and start the new year fresh.

Q. Does an injury like the one you’ve experienced change your mindset when you return?
BK: I’m playing to win. Once I’m on the course, I forget everything else and just play golf. I didn’t play my best golf here last year so I’m ready for a strong finish in Saudi.

Q. How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bringing the game into a new market?
BK: It’s great to see the game growing worldwide and having played in Saudi Arabia last year, I know the positive effect the tournament had on the country.

Q. What do you hope to learn from Saudi Arabia during your time competing and how excited are you about playing in the tournament?
BK: I am really looking forward to playing at Royal Greens again as I thought the layout was really impressive. I hope my experience playing in this event last year will allow me to contend for this year’s title.

Q. More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
BK:
It’s great to see so many young people wanting to get into the game. If you enjoy watching it, you will certainly love playing it.

Q. What’s the ambition for 2020 after such strong seasons in 2018 and 2019?
BK:
Right now, I just want to get back playing. I’m looking forward to a strong season and being in contention in all of the tournaments I play in, which come September will put me in a strong position for the Ryder Cup. As far as I am concerned, the Saudi International is the most important tournament in front of me right now.

Q. Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
BK:
I think coming to a golf event is the best way to watch the game. You are part of the event, you can see exactly what the players are going through at any point. You can also follow your favorite golfers around the course all day, which sometimes the TV doesn’t do depending on who you want to follow.