Ground staff pull covers over the pitch as the rain begins in Colombo [AFP]

Torrential rain caused Sri Lanka’s Cricket World Cup match against defending champions Australia to be abandoned on Saturday.

Sri Lanka had made 146-3 after winning the toss and electing to bat, with captain Kumar Sangakkara hitting an unbeaten 73, when Colombo’s R. Premadasa stadium was swamped by a downpour.

There was no let up in the rain, and after a delay of two-and-a-half hours, match officials had to call off the game and declare a 'no result'. Both teams share a point each.

"It's a shame, it was shaping up to be a terrific game. Sangakkara was controlling the match for them," said Australia skipper Ricky Ponting.

"It would have been a tough wicket to bat on second, it would have been a tough run chase."

Saturday's result leaves Pakistan top of Group A with a perfect six points from three games. Australia now have five points in the group, after winning their two previous matches. Sri Lanka also have five after winning two and losing one of their three previous games.

Long-awaited

The long-awaited game had looked to be tilted in favour of Australia early on as Tillakaratne Dilshan (4) was caught at slip in Shaun Tait's first over after a brief battle of wills between the two was won by the Australian paceman.

Sri Lanka were in further trouble when opener Upul Tharanga (6) was brilliantly caught by an air-borne Steve Smith off Brett Lee and Mahela Jayawardene departed for 23 after being run out with the score on 75.

But Sangakkara battled brilliantly to guide his side towards a competitive total with an impressive 73 from 102 balls including seven fours.

Australia, who have won the last three tournaments, have not lost a match in the World Cup since 1999, a run of 31 games.

The deluge brought back memories of the last time the teams met in the World Cup when rain in Bridgetown, Barbados suspended the 2007 final.

Sri Lanka/Australia scorecard

Sri Lanka innings
U Tharanga c Smith b Lee 6
T Dilshan c White b Tait 4
K Sangakkara not out 73
M Jayawardene run out (Smith) 23
T Samaraweera not out 34
Extras 6
Total (3 wickets; 32.5 overs) 146
Fall of wickets: 1-6 2-31 3-75

Australia team:
S Watson, B Haddin, R Ponting, M Clarke, D Hussey, C White, S Smith, M Johnson, J Krejza, B Lee, S Tait.

Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat

On that occasion, Sri Lanka returned to bat in the gathering gloom before losing a match forever remembered for its false ending as the umpires halted play in the twilight before returning to the middle for the game's last rites after Australia had started their team's celebrations prematurely.

Controversy

The build-up to the Group A match had been clouded in controversy when former Australian umpire Darrell Hair made new 'chucking' allegations over Sri Lanka's record-breaking spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Hair, who caused a storm in the international game when he first called the spinner for an illegal action in 1995, said that many current match officials share the same doubts.

However, he insisted that some umpires are scared to intervene, content to see the 38-year-old enjoy his World Cup swansong before slipping into international retirement.

"A couple of current umpires have said to me, 'something is wrong', but they prefer to let it go," Hair, who quit in 2008, told Australian media on Saturday.

"There is still a lot of doubt about his deliveries. A few have told me, 'there is definitely something wrong with his action, but I'm not going to call him'."

Despite Hair's suspicions, Muralitharan has been cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after undergoing biomechanical tests on his controversial action. 

Source: Agencies