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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 16:03 GMT
Fans bang anti-Aussie drum
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Centurion

Fears that local South Africans would begin to turn their back on a tournament which still has more than two weeks to run and does not include their own team were thankfully quashed when 12,470 fans packed into Supersport Park on Friday.

What the vast majority were hoping for was a defeat for Australia.

Ricky Ponting plays a sweep shot
The anti-Australian faction had to respect Ponting's innings
The consensus in these parts is that with six teams left in the World Cup, five of them are welcome to win it, but Australia are not.

Once Matty Hayden and Adam Gilchrist had punished some short-pitched bowling, however, to rattle up an unbeaten 68 off the first 10 overs against Sri Lanka there was only one team in the match.

Sanath Jayasuriya had such little confidence in Dilhara Fernando, his third seamer, that spinners were on at both ends for the last six overs of the first 15.

When that bold gambit backfired, it was time for the locals to enjoy the late summer sunshine and forget about a Sri Lankan victory.

Many Sri Lankan fielders looked as though they would also quite fancy sunbathing on the grassy banks that surround three-quarters of this stadium.

From the word go there was a notable lack of buzz about them. It was the sort of negative body language that would surely incense a coach sitting in the dressing-room.

Gilchrist is without question one of the game's great natural entertainers and he finally posted his first sizeable score of the World Cup by hitting a typically ebullient 99.

But when he was unfortunate to be run out via a direct hit from the deep, his captain Ricky Ponting eclipsed the opener's score by compiling a memorable 114.

Ponting's innings included one ferociously dismissive over when Chaminda Vaas, arguably the best bowler in the World Cup to date, was hit for 20 runs.

Muralitharan dismisses Matthew Hayden
Muttiah Muralitharan makes a breakthrough for Sri Lanka

While the Australian innings did not represent a total mismatch - when the Centurion pitch is as good as this 300 is a par score - Brett Lee soon quashed the final hopes of those still hoping to see the Aussies beaten.

A small but noisy clutch of Aussie supporters bizarrely began bleating like sheep at one point when Lee was bowling at full tilt.

Perhaps it was because at that point the Sri Lankan batsmen had become adept only at one thing - following each other back to the pavilion.

The next match in the Johannesburg region sees Sri Lanka take on India at the Wanderers on Monday.

Some South African fans with tickets for that match plan to unfurl a banner with the initials ABA - Anyone but Australia - on it.

Presumably they will be hoping the banner becomes redundant by the time the Wanderers stages the final.

But given Australia's current form it is more than likely they will be frustrating home supporters once again on 23 March.




SEE ALSO
Australia v Sri Lanka: over by over
07 Mar 03 |  Team Pages
Australia thrash Sri Lanka
07 Mar 03 |  Photo Galleries
Have Your Say on Australia
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say
Have Your Say on Sri Lanka
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say


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