India and Australia fight for Cricket World Cup top spot on Saturday
Last Updated: 06/07/19 9:57am
The World Cup group stage reaches its conclusion with a double-header as Sri Lanka play India at Headingley and Australia take on South Africa at Old Trafford. But who will finish top of the pile?
Australia are currently top of the group and a win over South Africa in Manchester will ensure they stay there, setting up a a semi-final showdown with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
That would leave India in second place, meaning they would face England in the second semi-final, at Edgbaston, on Thursday.
However, should India beat Sri Lanka and Australia slip up against the Proteas, it would be Virat Kohli's side heading to the north west to face New Zealand with the mouth-watering prospect of a pre-Ashes clash between England and Australia in Birmingham.
Sri Lanka are clear underdogs in the first game of the day but India would do well not to underestimate a side who have good memories of Leeds after they sparked this World Cup to life with a surprise win over England a couple of weeks ago.
Qualification may be beyond them but Dimuth Karunaratne's side will want to sign off with a win, especially given they are up against their subcontinental rivals.
Similarly, South Africa will be determined to end a disappointing campaign on a high. Having beaten Sri Lanka in their last match, Faf du Plessis and co will hope for a repeat performance against a side with whom they have always enjoyed a fierce rivalry.
Sri Lanka and India have no new injury concerns but sides may look to make a couple of changes. India may be tempted to bring Kuldeep Yadav back into the XI at the expense of one of their four frontline seamers while Sri Lanka could recall Thisara Perera to bolster their bowling options.
With Shaun Marsh having been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a broken wrist, Australia have called up Peter Handscomb. Glenn Maxwell also had a scan after being hit in the same net session as Marsh and while there was no serious damage, he will be assessed before the game with Handscomb primed to come in if required.
South Africa are set to stick with the XI that beat Sri Lanka last time out.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The pitch at Headingley is expected to spin and so Yuzvendra Chahal will have a chance to add to his 11 wickets so far in this World Cup. The leggie has bounced back well from his hammering at the hands of England and is always a threat.
Avishka Fernando. The Sri Lanka No 3 has announced himself at this World Cup, making good on his vast potential with a maiden ODI hundred against the West Indies. Free-scoring and with seemingly every shot in the book - plus a few extras - at his disposal, it is always well worth watching when the 21-year-old is at the crease.
As a spinner playing in England, there are few better places than Old Trafford. It is far from a dust bowl, but there is always a bit of turn and bounce on offer and, having forced his way into the team, Nathan Lyon could make sure of his place in the XI for the semi-final with a good showing in Manchester.
At 36, Hashim Amla is almost certainly playing in his final World Cup. The Proteas batsman has been phenomenal for his country over the years and what better way to sign off from World Cup cricket than with a typically classy knock against the Aussies?
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
India batsman Dinesh Karthik, already looking ahead to the semi-finals: "We definitely want to play the best game that we can but at the back of our minds we do have the semi-final. I think all four teams are going to be really looking forward to that, but it's hard for me to say which team will be a threat. On any given day any team can stand up, and that's the beauty of a tournament like a World Cup."
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne on where his team go from here: "In Sri Lanka, we have only one domestic season. After that you come to the international level, so there's a huge gap. We have to cross that gap and we have to play lots of cricket - give the players the chance to go play IPL, some Big Bash League or county cricket.
"If you take the positives of Avishka Fernando, he's playing really good and doing really well. In three games he's showed what he can do, he can produce some runs for Sri Lanka. He's one of the future stars."
Australia captain Aaron Finch on his team's turnaround in form, having lost 20 of their last 24 ODIs up to March: "What has changed is our ability to win the key moments in game. The ability for somebody under any circumstances to put their hand up and play a key role. It has been about having a bit more experience around the group and guys who have been in World Cups, in tight series, in high-pressure environments, where they have got the job done before."
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on first meeting with David Warner and Steve smith since ball-tampering scandal: "I think their records and their performances will speak much louder than one incident. All of us make mistakes. It is about how you learn and how you move forward."
"Australia have been boosted by the two guys coming back into their batting line-up and made them a pretty complete team. There's not many holes in their team now and they've played some really good cricket at this World Cup."
Watch every match at the Cricket World Cup live on Sky Sports, continuing with Sri Lanka vs India from 10am on Sky Sports Cricket World Cup and Australia vs South Africa from 1pm on Sky Sports Mix.
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