Usman Khawaja stars as Australia make it 2 out of 2

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Usman Khawaja raise his bat on reaching fifty. Pic Twitter.

Opening batsman Usman Khawaja was at centre of attraction as Australia made it two wins in two ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 warm-up matches by easing to a comfortable five-wicket victory against Sri Lanka in Southampton on Monday, 27 May.

An economical performance during which seven of the eight bowlers used got at least one wicket was followed by an emphatic batting display, Usman Khawaja making a strong case to be in the playing XI for the first game with a match-winning 89 off 105 balls. 

Spin accounted for five wickets as Sri Lanka were kept to 239/8, but Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins can take credit for sending down 10 overs worth of dot balls between them. Cummins was especially tricky to get away, going for just 23 in his eight. 

After Sri Lanka chose to bat, Lahiru Thirimanne took Starc for two boundaries in the opening over, but he and Dimuth Karunaratne soon slipped into a more cautious mode, fending off the short ones and watchful for movement. Karunaratne loosened his arms with a four over cover, but nicked off to Kane Richardson soon after, ending the first-wicket stand at 44.

The spinners slowed things down while also striking regularly. Thirimanne reached his half-century off 62 balls, having struck seven fours, but the rest of the top order couldn’t build on starts. 

The acceleration only came in a 64-run stand for the seventh wicket between Dhananjaya de Silva and Thisara Perera, at better than a run a ball. Once the latter was caught in the deep to give Cummins his first wicket, the innings quickly folded. 

Struck by a ball to his knee, Khawaja had limped off the field with an injury scare, but showed no ill-effects when it came time to bat. With David Warner left out due to some “soreness”, Khawaja had another chance to press his case at the top of the order.    

His calculated innings – he hit just three boundaries – helped add 80 for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh and 65 for the third with Glenn Maxwell, Khawaja acting as anchor while Marcus Stoinis played a cameo. He was denied a century, however; beaten by Jeffrey Vandersay, the third umpire confirmed that he was stumped.

It was left to Alex Carey and Cummins to knock off the winning runs, which they did with 5.1 overs to spare.

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