Australia edge past Sri Lanka in a nail bitter
Despite the heroics of Nuwan Kulasekara with the bat, Australia scraped past Sri Lanka with a slender 15 run win, to go one up in the best of three finals of the Commonwealth Bank Series, at Brisbane today. Australia posted a daunting 321/6 but Sri Lanka fought hard to get 306, in a remarkable game that had runs, wickets and drizzle pouring throughout the night. David Warner smashed 163 and Brett Lee bowled a fierce opening spell to help Australia grab the advantage in the first final.
Chasing 321 to win, it was Nuwan Kulsekara who played a stellar innings of 73 off 43 deliveries. He, along with the Sri Lankan late order, staged a remarkable turnaround and almost pulled off an incredible victory.
The Lankan openers Mahela Jayawardene (14) and TM Dilshan(27) came out with flashing blades and added 39 in four overs before Brett Lee decided to up the speedometer. He accounted for Jayawardene and cleaned up Dilshan with a pacey in swinger.
Kumara Sangakkara (42) and Dinesh Chandimal(14) tried to stabilize the innings with a 41 run stand but Brett “broken toe” Lee snapped up Sangakkara when the left hander tried to go over the top of mid-off.
The middle order then collapsed to 144/6 and was missing the solidity of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perrera, both sidelined due to injuries. But Upul Tharanga made a strong comeback to the side and added 104 runs with Nuwan Kulasekara to turn the table on the Aussies.
Kulasekhara’s 73 off 43 balls, Thranga’s 60 off 67 and Dhamika Prasad’s unbeaten 31 off 21 left the Aussies flustered and bolstered the hopes of a Sri Lankan victory. Australia, somehow, crawled back with Lee and Watson holding on to their nerves. Both picked up three wickets while David Hussey made up for his rare failure with the bat by grabbing four wickets.
Earlier, Michael Clarke, making a comeback from injury, won the toss and elected to bat on bouncy Gabba track. The Aussie openers made merry of some lack luster Sri Lankan bowling and uncharacteristic sloppy fielding.
David Warner and Matthew Wade gave Australia an explosive start with a 136-run opening partnership. Although Wade fell for 64, Warner went on to amass a 157 ball 163 that propelled Australia to the second-highest total ever recorded in an ODI at the Gabba.
Warner had already made a name as a Twenty20 player and has announced himself in the test arena by scoring two Test hundreds this summer but has always been accused of throwing it away in the 50 over format. But today, a more restrained effort saw him bat through the innings only to be dismissed in the last delivery of the 50th over. Warner drove down the ground crisply and pulled powerfully to bring up his maiden ODI ton.
Apart from Wade, Warner was aptly helped by Shane Watson (21), with whom he put up a 50 run stand, and Michael Clarke, who scored a 25 ball 37. Warner and Clarke piled on the runs in the batting powerplay and added 64. The final thrust to the innings came from Mike Hussey, who helped himself to an unbeaten 19 off 10.
The Sri Lankan bowling struggled to keep a lid on Warner and Malinga relived his “Hobart Horror”, conceding 74 runs in eight overs. Sri Lanka lacked intensity and looked jaded in the field- a result of two consecutive tight games against India and Australia during the league phase. However, they showed their character when the late middle order stuck to their guns.
The Aussies might have put this one past the islanders but the late revival from the Sri Lanka would definitely make them weary. Sri Lanka, however, would be hoping to thrive on the confidence from this game when they take on Australia in the 2nd final at Adelaide on March 6.