Mark Waugh's career-best one-day score of 130 helped Australia to
a comfortable 83-run victory over Sri Lanka in Perth today and
guaranteed them a place in the best-of-three World Series finals.
Openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana gave the Sri
Lankans a flying start to their pursuit of Australia's 50- over
total of 266 for six, putting on 56 off just 66 balls. But the
loss of four wickets for just 11 runs left their challenge in
tatters and they finished on 183 for nine.
Waugh, promoted to open the innings in place of out-of-form
Michael Slater, dominated an opening stand of 189 off 216 balls
with captain Mark Taylor, who made 85. It beat the previous Aus-
tralian first-wicket record stand of 182 compiled by Rick McCosk-
er and Alan Turner during the 1975 World Cup. Waugh hit three
sixes, including one off medium pace bowler Pramodya Wick-
ramasinghe over long-off, during his 151-ball innings.
Medium pacer Stuart Law began the Sri Lankan collapse when he in-
duced Jayasuriya to edge a catch to wicketkeeper Ian Healy off
the final ball of his first over. Law then won a leg before de-
cision against Aravinda de Silva with the first ball of his next
over. Kaluwitharana and Roshan Mahanama followed in quick succes-
sion. Sri Lanka, bottom of the World Series table with four
points from six games, must win their remaining two matches to
qualify for the finals.
Mark Waugh admitted his magnificent World Series cricket century
against Sri Lanka as an opener last night was a "bit of a worry"
for his dumped friend Michael Slater. But if the gifted right-
hander had his choice, he would have preferred the glorious in-
nings to be pencilled in at number three and not as an opener.
Waugh was well aware that his hand, which is only bettered in
Australian records by Dean Jones' 145 against England in 1990 and
Greg Chappell's unbeaten 138 off the New Zealand attack in 1980,
could jeopardise the World Cup aspirations of New South Wales
teammate and close friend Michael Slater.
Waugh was elevated to opening the innings with captain Mark Tay-
lor after Slater could manage only 51 runs at an average of 8.50
in the six previous games. "There is a bit of a worry," Waugh
said, when asked if his innings closed the door on Slater's
hopes. "Slats is one of my best mates and I'd love to see him go
to the World Cup and whatever, but ... Yeah, it's a tough one be-
cause they gave me a job to open and I scored runs. Whether I'm
going to open or not in the World Cup, I don't know. They haven't
spoken to me about it so we'll take each game as it comes."
Few could blame the selectors if they do persist with Waugh as an
opener on the sub continent, further damaging Slater's chances of
making the final 14-man squad to be named on January 22. In six
knocks at the head of Australia's batting lineup, Waugh has
scored 60, 57, 0, 108, 83 and 130 at an average of 73. Waugh was
far more restrained than usual early in his innings, but broke
free once he was settled and smashed three huge sixes over long-
off from the bowling of Ruwan Kalpage, Kumara Dharmasena and
Pramodya Wickremasinghe. He was an outside chance to eclipse
Jones' 145 until a mix-up with Stuart Law off the opening ball of
the 50th over, which was called a wide, led to his demise.
Waugh's ability to build his innings and consistently find gaps
"I don't think there's much difference to batting three and open-
ing to be honest. When you bat three you could be in early any
time so it's actually harder batting at three because you might
have to wait around," a modest Waugh said.
Making Waugh's effort even more meritorious was the fact that he
was struck three painful blows in the same spot on his left leg,
resulting in him arriving at the post match press conference
sporting a big ice pack. "Actually I got hit first ball which was
given a run and then got hit twice more. It's sore, but it is
just bruised so it won't be any problem for next Tuesday," Waugh
Summarized from Reuter and AAP reports