COLOMBO, March 3 – Australian captain Ricky Ponting is confident his side can deal with Sri Lanka's spin attack and their devastating pace spearhead Lasith Malinga when the sides meet on Saturday.
The Group A match in Colombo will be a repeat of the controversial 2007 World Cup final when Australia won by 53 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis formula, a match that finished in near darkness.
Australia have lost quality players Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath and Sri Lanka can take heart from a one-day series win in Australia last year.
Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, the only survivor from Sri Lanka’s historic win over Australia in the 1996 World Cup final, slow left-armer Rangana Herath and spinner Ajantha Mendis are all likely to play against Australia.
Sri Lanka will also look to sling-action paceman Lasith Malinga, whose career-best 6-38, including a hat-trick, destroyed Kenya by nine wickets on Tuesday.
But Ponting remains unfazed.
"The first game they had there (at R. Premadasa) was a really high-scoring one and didn’t really favour the spinners as much as they would like," said Ponting of Sri Lanka’s 11-run defeat against Pakistan.
"We expect Sri Lanka to be a very tough contest," said Ponting, whose team have beaten Zimbabwe by 91 runs and New Zealand by seven wickets, stretching their World Cup winning streak to 25 straight matches.
"I think they’ll be our toughest contest to date in this tournament. They’re a good one-day side. But in saying that I think they rely on a few, certainly on the batting side of things.
"If you look at Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as the three that they rely on the most, they all had a pretty good start to the tournament.
"It’s an interesting one with their conditions, because I think we’re playing them on a wicket that’s a new one and has been re-laid."
Australia have beaten Sri Lanka in six of their seven World Cup matches, with their only loss coming at Lahore in the 1996 final.
Even if Sri Lanka employ a spin trap, Ponting insisted Australia will look to their three in-form seamers, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait.
"I made it really clear at the start of this tournament that I don’t care who we’re playing against or where we’re playing, if we get these three guys playing as well as we can, then it’s going to be hard work for any team batting against us," Ponting said.
Australia are unlikely to announce a replacement for injured fast bowler Doug Bollinger until the latter stages of the World Cup.
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara said all his players would need to be at their best if they want a win against Australia.
"Saturday’s going to be a big game for us and hopefully we can keep improving, make sure we have a lot more energy on the field and hopefully everyone does well enough to beat Australia," said Sangakkara.