AUSTRALIAN and Sri Lankan players are united in declaring there is no lingering animosity from the heated end to Monday night's Twenty20 match at the MCG.
Australia required four runs from the last delivery to win but Glenn Maxwell, who hit the first two deliveries he faced to the boundary to give the home team a chance at an unlikely victory, was unable to get a third, playing and missing a full delivery outside off-stump by Thisara Perera. The resulting bye gave Sri Lanka a two-run win to cement its No.1 ranking in the shortest form of the game.
The home team's target was reduced from 161 from 20 overs to 122 from 15 overs due to a 46-minute rain delay. Australia was unhappy at how tardy Sri Lanka was in bowling its final five overs, from which it needed to score 62 runs. This peaked when a group of Sri Lankan players held an impromptu conference with Perera before the final delivery, prompting a tirade from Maxwell.
Maxwell later tweeted that Sri Lanka's players had "apologised for going over the top" in their post-match confrontation with he and other Australians, although the batting all-rounder said he too had apologised, rejecting any notion of a dispute with senior Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardene, a teammate of his at Delhi in the Indian Premier League.
"I have a good friendship with Mahela, and it's gonna stay that way," Maxwell tweeted.
Sri Lanka Twenty20 captain Angelo Mathews defended the lengthy conference with Perera before the last delivery.
"It was a bit nervous. All of the guys got a bit excited. I just wanted to keep it calm and told 'Thisa' [Perera] to go for what his instinct said," he said.
"I thought it was a brilliant over. In a Twenty20, 16 runs in an over is sort of easy for the batting team. I thought he bowled a brilliant last over, considering the fact it was demanding conditions. You couldn't really hold on to the ball – it was not gripping, it was wet, the outfield was wet – so it was not easy."
Mathews dismissed the resulting post-match spat with the Australians, including Maxwell and Matthew Wade, as "just a heat-of-the-moment [incident]".
"Things happen, you exchange a few words. They played hard, we played hard. That's it. After the game we're friends," Mathews said.
Australia captain George Bailey said he was not fully aware of the cause and extent of the spat, given he had been dismissed early in the last over, but agreed there could have been discontent over Sri Lanka's over-rate.
"I think there might have been. I'm sure the umpires were all over that, if that was the case," he said.
Things happen, you exchange a few words. They played hard, we played hard. That's it. After the game we're friends - Angelo Mathews
"I can't [conclusively explain the cause] because I wasn't out there, but [I suspect] passion. People care about the game and the way they play. That's it.
"We get on very well with this [Sri Lankan] side so . . . I think it's all just heat-of-the-moment stuff. What you're seeing are individuals are teams that are keen to win."
While Sri Lanka seemed reluctant to want to resume playing on Monday night – Mathews and Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford were involved in a lengthy discussion with the umpires during the delay – Mathews insisted the team always wanted to finish the match, despite already being ahead on Duckworth-Lewis calculations.
"The outfield was extremely wet. The bowlers were finding it really hard to grip the ball because it was slipping. But we wanted to get out there on the field because we didn't want to disappoint the crowd that'd turned up in large numbers – especially playing in Melbourne. It's like playing at home because it's the second-largest Sri Lankan community after Sri Lanka," he said.
Bailey said Australia's expensive finish with the ball – it conceded 80 runs from its last seven overs – was pivotal to Sri Lanka's victory.
"It certainly hurt us because we'd been very good up until then. They're contrasting finishes, they way they bowled to us in Sydney and our last four overs. That's probably the gap between the best team in the world in Twenty20 and the seventh-best, or whatever we are."