The reverse-sweeps came out, and so did those ridiculous flicks over the boundary line; the slog-sweeps were in full show as the "Big Show" Glenn Maxwell tore the Sri Lanka bowling to shreds in another batting display of innovation combined with brute force. Then came Sri Lanka's own master -- Kumar Sangakkara -- with more subtle strokes, the gorgeous cover drives, effective flicks and astute awareness of what is required in a big chase.
In the end of a cliff-hanger of a high-scoring contest in this Pool A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Maxwell and his Australia team just about won out, but not after Sangakkara and his Sri Lanka side had given them a right-old scare in a massive chase of 377.
Australia flexed their muscles against Afghanistan with a World Cup record score, and they continued in that same vein with a ridiculously good and dominant batting display against the formidable Sri Lanka in Sydney.
Maxwell struck his first century in ODI cricket, and of course it was in double-quick time – the second fastest ever in World Cups and the fastest ever by an Australian to be precise – while Steven Smith, Michael Clarke and the returning Shane Watson struck delightful half-centuries as well to put the Sri Lanka bowlers to sword, smashing a massive 376/9 in their 50 overs.
In reply, Sri Lanka were outstanding, despite losing Lahiru Thirimanne to a ripper from Mitchell Johnson early. Tillakaratne Dilshan (62, 60b, 8x4) smashed Johnson to great effect early on, with six fours in one over, while Sangakkara (104, 107b, 11x4) showed just why he should be considered amongst the greatest ever batsman in world cricket with another innings of pure class.
Sangakkara's third straight century at this ICC Cricket World Cup – the first person to ever do that – however, was just not enough to take Sri Lanka home, as they finished 64 runs short of the target on 312 in 46.2 overs.
The chase did not begin in the perfect manner for Sri Lanka, as Thirimanne, fresh from his century against England, was sent packing by Johnson. But, all that did was bring in the in-form Sangakkara, and Dilshan, galvanised by the arrival of his experienced teammate, also cut loose.
Johnson was smashed for 24 runs in an over by Dilshan, all of them fours, and Sri Lanka felt they had a chance in this massive chase, especially if the right-hander and Sangakkara stayed at the crease for as long as possible.
The experienced duo put on 135 runs in under 20 overs together, but once Dilshan, dropped by Michael Clarke earlier on, was trapped in front by an excellent back-of-the-hand slower delivery by James Faulkner, the chase stalled.
Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, after putting on 53 runs together at near a run-a-ball, fell in quick succession – the latter via a brilliant direct hit from Clarke and the former holing out in deep cover off the bowling of the excellent Faulkner – and the match looked won by Australia with Sri Lanka needing 175 runs from the final 16 overs.
But, Sri Lanka refused to give up the chase and Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews counter-attacked in splendid style, allying for 80 runs in just 44 balls to put the cat amongst the pigeons in the Australia camp.
However, Chandimal, who was stunning in his 52 from 24 balls (8x4, 1x6), was forced to retire hurt with cramp, and with his partner gone, Mathews (35, 31b, 2x4, 1x6) also fell soon after and the match was done.
Earlier, coming in at a difficult time after Australia lost Clarke and Smith in quick succession, Maxwell did not bother too much about taking his time and getting his eye in, using those unparalleled skills of his to just pick his spots and hit it with precision.
Watson, at the other end, was more than happy to play second fiddle, but was far from shabby with his strike rate, eventually finishing on 67 from 41 balls (7x4, 2x6), but it was Maxwell who sent those pulses racing with an exhilarating display of batting.
The platform was set up by happy-to-get-a-hit-in-the-middle Clarke (68, 68b, 6x4) and Smith (72, 88b, 7x4, 1x6), after the openers – David Warner and Aaron Finch – fell early, and they went about building that momentum for the likes of Maxwell and Watson, picked ahead of Mitchell Marsh on the dry-as-a-bone SCG pitch, to take off.
It was brilliant batting from Clarke and Smith, picking off the singles early on, settling the nerves and then stepping up that gear with absolute precision. Clarke was especially impressive, and the Australia skipper will be over the moon with his innings, even if he would have felt he should have gone and scored a big one, with Lasith Malinga, via a spearing yorker, ensuring he wouldn't.
Smith also fell four deliveries after Clarke's dismissal, and that put Australia in a spot of bother on 177/4 in the 33rd over. It would have been consolidation, "make sure we don't lose any wickets and take the singles before going smash-bang in the final 10 overs" time for most batsmen, but mot Maxwell.
The right-hander is the most exciting player when it comes to hitting the ball, not just through conventional strokes, but also those reverse-sweeps and wristy/muscling flicks, and Maxwell was in tune right from the off in front of a big crowd in Sydney.
Maxwell got to his 50 in just 26 balls, and he looked determined to go for more. There was not going to be a quickfire-and-that-is-done knock this time around, as the Aussie slugger continued the assault in such a professional, yet exciting, manner that all the Sri Lankan fans could do was shake their heads and admit they were watching an unstoppable force in action.
For the first time ever, perhaps, Maxwell got a little nervous in the 90s, and that meant he missed out on becoming the fastest to a hundred in World Cups, just failing to beat Kevin O'Brien's record of 50 balls. It mattered little, though, as he got to the landmark for the first time in his ODI career in 51 deliveries, and the celebration after that said it all, as he waved that magic wand around in delight, and then went in for a long and emotional hug with Watson.
The Maxwell show ended soon after his hundred, but Watson and Brad Haddin (25, 9b, 4x4, 1x6) smacked a few towards the end to post that massive score and ensure victory and a place in the quarterfinals.
Get the Full Scorecard of the Match HERE