Sri Lanka break series drought on rainy night
Sri Lanka 3 for 213 (Tharanga 86*) beat Australia 210 (Watson 40) by 29 runs on D/L method
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka came on this tour with one goal and achieved it with a match to spare. By handing Australia a seventh straight defeat, Kumar Sangakkara's men delivered their maiden series win in Australia in 26 years of trying. When the hosts slipped over for 210 in the greasy conditions it gave Sri Lanka victory by 29 runs - and it had come more easily than expected.
There was much to like about Sri Lanka's play in a match regularly threatened by rain, but there was little to inspire the hosts as they head to Brisbane for Sunday's dead rubber. The only time the visitors struggled was in the first two overs of the match - when they didn't score - but once the openers Upul Tharanga, who held the innings together with 86 not out, and Tillakaratne Dilshan got going there was nothing that could stop them. Not even the weather.
The rain disrupted Sri Lanka's innings twice as it finished early at 3 for 213 in 41.1 overs, but Australia's target was quickly inflated to 244 in 39 overs under the Duckworth Lewis method. The calculations added more difficulty to what was already a tricky pursuit in a seamer-friendly environment, and they began needing more than a run a ball. A short rain break towards the end trimmed another over from the match and reduced the target to 240. It didn't help.
Mistakes came quickly, starting with Brad Haddin's flash at a Nuwan Kulasekara inswinger and the knocking back of his middle stump. Ricky Ponting (10) fell hooking, just as he did so often last summer, and when Michael Clarke's (25) attempted pull ended up with a lunging Muttiah Muralitharan at third man, Australia were 4 for 80 and the game was heading one way.
Murali then watched Michael Hussey tap a catch to deep mid-off, a wicket which came after Shane Watson had missed a sweep on 40 to be lbw. He finished with 2 for 30 off seven while Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv and Kulasekara also claimed two victims. Cameron White (35) and Steven Smith (33) could not achieve the miracle, especially when Lasith Malinga was varying his pace superbly.
Sri Lanka were 2 for 161 off 34 overs when the weather intervened for the first time, chopping five overs from their original allocation, and they finished in a rush before the clouds reopened. Tharanga ensured Sri Lanka built on the high gained from their stunning victory in Melbourne on Wednesday as he put on 98 for the first wicket with Dilshan.
The 70-run stand between the captain Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga was starting to warm up when the rain arrived for the first time. Instead of acceleration, the ground received 90 minutes of saturation. Sangakkara (45) sliced Watson (2 for 45) to Clint McKay at third man before Angelo Mathews, the hero from the first game, provided a timely surge by swinging to 17 off 11.
Tharanga, who was comfortable chipping over the infield, was the slower partner alongside Dilshan, but he ended up in the lead role during his 112-ball stay. His half-century came up with two lofted boundaries to the legside off Nathan Hauritz and there were six fours in his display.
While his innings was highly worthy, Tharanga was dropped on 61 by Haddin and also survived a comical run-out attempt when stranded at the wrong end on 76. Haddin's throw flew over the bowler Watson's head before Clarke backed up and shied at the bowler's end. His on-target effort hit the leg of Watson, who was trying to get out of the way of the stumps, and Tharanga eventually regained his ground. It is a moment that will be replayed often until Australia can show they are a committed, unified and successful unit.
After Australia's bowling troubles in their awful loss in Melbourne, they demoted the spinner Xavier Doherty to 12th man despite his four-wicket debut, and also dropped John Hastings. The replacements didn't create a sudden shift in the team's fortunes.
McKay (0 for 42) came in to take the new ball and was steady, while Hauritz showed some useful signs in picking up 1 for 49 from nine overs. Mitchell Johnson gave away 11 runs in his first over while Peter Siddle was handy without being dangerous.
While there only 11,495 watching at the ground, Australia's seventh consecutive loss in all forms of the game will be noticed by everyone. England are in Perth, having started well in their tour opener, and can see a host of Ashes weaknesses. Over in Colombo there will be celebrations for the Sri Lankan team after their biggest obstacle ended up being the weather.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo