Sri Lankans pip Aussies in thriller
Sri Lanka claims the T20 series against Australia 2-0 after a dramatic win in Melbourne.PT0M0S 620 349
AUSTRALIAN selectors should feel relieved the next World Twenty20 is still 14 months away, as the national team's bid to belatedly succeed in the shortest format remains a flawed one.
Sri Lanka's finished its eight-week tour of Australia on a high by claiming a two-run win in front of a crowd of 39,427 at the MCG. The rain-affected result, close enough to heighten doubts over the suitability of Duckworth-Lewis adjustments in the shortest format, sealed a 2-0 series win for Sri Lanka and also extended its winning streak over Australia in the shortest form to five matches. Australia's last head-to-head triumph was at 2010 World Twenty20 tournament.
The home team was punished for its bowlers' inability to shackle Sri Lankan batsmen Mahela Jayawardene (61 not out off 45 deliveries) and Thisara Perera (35 not out off 15) late in Sri Lanka's innings, as it squandered what had been an impressive start with the ball.
Tense finish ... Glenn Maxwell remonstrates with the Sri Lankan team after the final ball of Australia's tense loss. Photo: Getty Images
Chasing Sri Lanka's 4-161, a surprisingly high total given the visitors were languishing at 3-56 at the half-way mark of their innings, Australia was stung by the loss of both openers within the powerplay and by the half-way mark was a similarly subdued 2-60.
A 46-minute rain delay after Australia's 10th over resulted in a Duckworth-Lewis-adjusted target of 122 from 15 overs, meaning the home team needed 62 from 30 deliveries - a kind adjustment given the control Sri Lanka had before the interruption.
Shaun Marsh and captain George Bailey, whose partnership had reached 40 before the resumption, managed only two boundaries between the 11th and 13th overs but then dragged the home team back into contention.
Clean sweep ... Mahela Jayawardene was dominant with the bat. Photo: Getty Images
Australia needed 34 from the last two overs, one of which was from limited-overs expert Lasith Malinga. Consecutive boundaries from Bailey were vital in Australia claiming 16 runs from that penultimate over, leaving a target of 18 from Thisara Perera's final over. Bailey holed out for 45 from the second delivery to end a gutsy 86-run partnership with Marsh, leaving Glenn Maxwell to take over. All-rounder Perera, having already been no-balled for a high full-toss to Marsh, was then sliced to the boundary wide of third man by the new man from consecutive deliveries to leave Australia a target of four runs from the final ball, which the right-hander was unable to make contact with. It left Marsh unbeaten on 47 and Australia 3-119.
Sri Lanka engaged in some gamesmanship at the end. They delayed bowling the final ball until Maxwell yelled at them to get on with it and Jayawardene yelled back.
Thilara Perera angrily shouted at Maxwell as he ran past for a single off the final ball.
Maxwell lets his feelings be known as the players shook hands at the end.
David Warner had some tough words to say to Perera and then Jayawardene. George Bailey intervened and appeared to shove Jayawardene away.
The home team's search for a reliable death bowler may spawn another candidate for next month's season-ending Twenty20 match at Brisbane, after latest triallist Ben Laughlin suffered another horror end against Sri Lanka. Had Australia had a bowler capable of shackling Sri Lanka's typically daring batsmen it would have been chasing a total much closer to 130.
In the last seven overs Australia conceded a game-changing 80 runs. Four bowlers were used - Laughlin, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner and Mitch Starc - but all conceded at least nine runs and a boundary in every over.
Laughlin earned a national-team recall based on a Big Bash League in which he was, with the exception of veteran left-armer Dirk Nannes, the form Australian seamer. His closing effort in Sydney went horribly awry - he conceded 19 runs in the second-last over as Sri Lanka surged to victory - but Bailey, who also led him at Hobart, had sufficient faith to try him again.
The 30-year-old's recent success has been largely due to his ability to outsmart opponents, although on this latest occasion his primary opponent was Jayawardene, whose limited-overs international match tally is about to past 450. Experienced and skill triumphed as the first three deliveries of that last over raced to the boundary, from improvised shots atypical of such a classy batsman.
Australia was hurt by Bailey's decision - possibly at Laughlin's request - to forego a deep third-man.
The first and third deliveries both ended precisely in that region, abutting Jayawardene's deft dab past wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. Laughlin's wretched end was then compounded by Perera's hook that was played so early the ball landed closer to third-man than it did to fine-leg.
Two matches into Laughlin's comeback he has one wicket and had been pounded for 86 runs from 7.5 overs.