BANGALORE, March 11- Defending champions Australia can reach the World Cup quarter-finals with a victory over hapless Kenya on Sunday in what threatens to be one of the most lopsided matches of the tournament.
Australia, unbeaten at the World Cup since 1999, have recorded dominant wins over Zimbabwe and New Zealand before rain washed out what promised to be their first major test of this tournament, against Sri Lanka, last weekend.
One of the few things that appears to be standing in the way of another crushing display will be if they decide to alter the batting line-up so as to give their under-exposed middle order much needed match practice.
There is set to be at least one change with Michael Hussey, a late replacement for injured fast bowler Doug Bollinger, having himself recovered from a hamstring problem, set to play his first match of the tournament.
This may be Kenya’s fifth successive World Cup but it has so far been a desperately disappointing tournament for the 2003 semi-finalists.
Hammered by New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they then suffered an even more humbling five-wicket loss to fellow non-Test nation Canada on Monday.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting has repeatedly questioned the worth of non-Test nations at the World Cup and has backed the International Cricket Council’s decision to reduce the 2015 edition to 10 teams from the present 14.
Sunday’s match, where a win for Kenya would surpass Bangladesh’s shock victory in Cardiff in 2005 and at least equal Zimbabwe’s 1983 triumph at Trent Bridge in the annals of stunning Australia one-day defeats, seems certain to strengthen Ponting’s case.
And, worryingly for Kenya, Australia fast bowler Brett Lee believes the champions have still to play their best cricket in the subcontinent.
"We are very comfortable and happy with the way things are going," Lee said ahead of the Group A game.
"We still haven’t played our best cricket, but that’s encouraging for us because the way we’re going is a nice, slow incline. We’re peaking at the right time I think."
Lee added Australia were delighted to have Hussey, nicknamed ‘Mr Cricket’ back in their ranks.
"It’s a dream come true for a lot of players because of what he brings to the group, not only with his professionalism . . . but also him as a cricketer and his energy. It’s great to have ‘Huss’ back."
If any match looks like being a good one for Australia to mix-up their batting order, it is surely this encounter and all-rounder Shane Watson said: "I suppose it could be like our match against Ireland in the 2007 World Cup when Mike Hussey opened the batting and Andrew Symonds batted at three to give him a chance of getting some time in the middle."
As for Kenya, pride is at stake and batsman Tanmay Mishra, who made 51 in Kenya’s 198 against Canada, said: "We’ve got Australia and we’ve just still got to stay positive and do the basics right.
"Australia are the world champions and they are 32 games unbeaten at the World Cup so it will be difficult but hopefully we can come up and give a good show," the 24-year-old Mumbai-born shotmaker added.