Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Brisbane January 18, 2013

Kulasekara sets up low-scoring Sri Lanka win


Sri Lanka 6 for 75 (K Perera 22*, Johnson 3-11) beat Australia 74 (Starc 22*, Kulasekara 5-22, Malinga 3-14) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A fearsome spell of inswing bowling from Nuwan Kulasekara was the definitive performance in a bizarre third ODI at the Gabba, where both captains would have batted first, but 100 may have been a winning total. Kulasekara took a career-best 5 for 22 as he damned Australia to 74 all out, with the aid of Lasith Malinga, who tore down the tail.

Sri Lanka's run chase shaped as a straightforward one, but they lost six wickets before they reached their target, meaning 16 wickets had been lost in the day for 149 runs. Had Australia held early chances off Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne, they may have won early the momentum to spark a heavier collapse, but instead the visitors limped home in the 20th over, with their last recognised batting pair at the crease.

Having rested several key players for the first two matches, Australia returned to near-full strength at Brisbane, with Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade arriving to bolster the batting, but none of them could make it to double figures. In fact, only the last pair of Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty did.

The captains shared the opinion that the pitch was full of runs at the toss, but both men seem to have underestimated the effect of Brisbane's humidity. It was in the air that Kulasekara won the battle, not off the pitch. Few batsmen are equipped to negate the amount of movement he achieved, particularly in the middle of his spell, but the lateness of Kulasekara's inswing made him almost unplayable, and Australia will perhaps feel there is little they could have done better to counter bowling of that quality.

The deliveries that bowled Clarke and Moises Henriques began about a metre outside off stump, and only began to move around halfway down the pitch, when the batsmen were already committed to the stroke. Both men played for big inswing, but as the ball swerved hard at the stumps like a snake suddenly smelling prey, they still had their inside edges passed and their woodwork rattled. George Bailey had made a similar mistake first ball, only he had offered no stroke to a delivery he believed to be passing safely outside off stump, and it struck him flush on the front pad and would have hit middle and off.

Sri Lanka's bowlers only mustered modest swing to begin with, but Angelo Mathews used a little extra bounce to dismiss Warner, who holed out to mid on playing a cross-batted stroke that was ill-judged in any case. Warner had been among the runs during the Test leg of the tour, and the manner of his dismissal in Brisbane may add heat to the debate about Australia's rotation policy, and whether batsmen are being done a disservice by being rested when they are in form.

Kulasekara worked himself into a honeyed rhythm after that dismissal, and by the 12th over, had embarrassed Australia's first-choice team. His first two scalps were the result of fine catching as well as great bowling, as Jayawardene held on to a tough chance off Phillip Hughes' bat at third slip, before wicketkeeper Kushal Perera dove to his left to snaffle David Hussey's inside edge.

Malinga also found movement in the air when he came into the attack at 6 for 30, and removed Mitchell Johnson with an outswinging yorker in his second over, before taking a wicket in each of his two next overs.

Doherty was circumspect at the crease to begin with, leaving the strokemaking to Starc, who was intent on making the best of a bad situation, and the pair rode their luck for eight overs, before Shaminda Eranga ended the innings with a slower ball. Had they survived five more overs together, it may have been their side that took the series lead.

Dilshan's innings of 22 was populated almost exclusively by booming drives, most of which failed to make contact - many by quite a distance. Faced with a small target and difficult conditions, Sri Lanka's batsmen appeared to have opted for a hyper-aggressive approach, reasoning that if just one of them came off, victory would come easy.

However at 4 for 37, that strategy had only delivered them jitters and handed the opposition momentum. Kushal Perera and Upul Tharanga chose then to reserve their belligerence only for the poor deliveries, and in a match where even minuscule contributions with the bat were invaluable, two wicketless overs before the tea break eased Sri Lanka's nerves, and three quick boundaries after resumptions hurtled them close to safety. Starc picked up two more scalps before Sri Lanka reached their target, but with so few to get, neither breakthrough gave rise to real hope of a famous win.

The action moves to the SCG now, where Sri Lanka have flourished in ODIs, and the visitors will hope to wrap up the series there, and maintain their dominance of Australia in their own conditions in recent years.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on January 20, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas: I am not sure if cricket results can be normally distributed. Individual performances can be but not match results. Eng won 2005 & 2009 Ashes 2-1 so it goes 2-0 to Eng there but with the smallest of changes it could have been so diff. In results, exceptional performances often called cameos or lucky breaks/bad decision can sometimes/often leave profound impact on the series result. IMO central limit theorem is not applicable to such cricket matches. Syd 2008 is another example.

    This wasn't meant to be Dhoni vs Clarke but fact is, better resources can make poor tactics look brilliant and vice versa. Ofc Ind have played poorly too and Dhoni himself is not a confident batsman in tests. But even with any other captain, I doubt if the result would have been much diff. Dhoni suffers cos he can't bat or bowl much and so his own performance isn't seen. Clarke scores runs so Aus win/lose he is seen as doing something.


  • sleepybear on January 20, 2013, 14:26 GMT

    @TommyTuckerSaffa sorry mate dont agree with you SL are no minnows in ODI cricket. simply inconsistent, they were the finalists of the last two ODI worldcups and have a good record in ODI's.

  • sleepybear on January 20, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    From some of the comments on here you would think that Australia had won the match comprehensively. a lot of fans talking about the test series yes we know we lost the test matches to Australia any rational SL fan knew that SL would get thrashed.We were massacred in the tests and it was disappointing as test cricket is the real deal but that is not relevant here its done and dusted this is the one day series and clearly Australia's best side is being severely outplayed by Srilanka yet we hear rubbish excuses such as the toss,one team is not focusing blah blah this is no fluke win SL have dominated Australia in Australia in recent times 8 wins out of the last 13 games. Its a good thing Australia have been so dominant in world cricket or we would have been hearing these excuses a whole lot more get used to losing, your team is in a transitional state and will have to face many defeats in the future Aussie fans simply learn some grace. good luck to both teams for Hobart.SL the favourites.

  • Srinivas on January 20, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    @Harmony111, cheers bro! I know that you would want to discuss at great lengths. But let's call it quits here. Let's not bore the Aussies and the Lankans to death with our debate on India and Dhoni :). Cheers Aussies and Lankans! Thanks for being patient with the two of us on your boards. Exciting fight going on right now at SCG. I'm off to that match now, though rain is kind of playing a spoil-sport there. Good luck to both the teams.

  • Srinivas on January 20, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    @Harmony111, if we distribute performances under a Gaussian Distribution, positive or negative 3SD from the mean are exceptions/extremes and we are not allowed to judge a team or members in that distribution or a player by those extreme numbers. The two low scores of Australia are such aberrations only. Neither Clarke nor his team members should attract flak for those exceptions. You know it and I know it. Rather, how the distribution over a period of time is - that's what matters. Yes, Indians didn't get bowled out for two such low scores. But with some expertise in statistics, I cannot ignore the consistent Indians' sample over a period of time (the bigger the sample the better it is for us to draw a conclusion) that is staring at me. You know it and I know it. Is Dhoni responsible for it solely? Hell, no! Did he commit blunders on the field? Hell, yes! As I said, no point in discussing them all over again. We all went over them at great lengths when our team was being annihilated.

  • Harmon on January 19, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    @ Dravid_Gravitas: The subtle point was that in India we are now blaming Dhoni for a lot of things and have lost the objectivity one should have. Dhoni may have made a lot of money or have received a lot of coverage for his good doings of the past but I think all that has been shallow and has not shown us the true imp of Dhoni to Ind cricket. On one hand we think of Dhoni as a magician who just needs to stay cool to won matches and on the other hand the shallow reporting has not truly shown what one needs to be Dhoni-like. Result? On one hand we expect Dhoni to do it all and on the other hand we also blame him for all sundry things. With the amount of cricket MS plays and the pressure in every format of it, MS truly surprises me. Compare that to Trescothick or Basit Ali who cudn't even play as batsmen alone.

    Shud the captain get any blame for 47 and 74 a.o.? MS surely got much flak for Ind batting failures in Eng/Aus. In fact for bowling failures too. Ans - Ind Media vs Oz Media.

  • Srinivas on January 19, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    @Harmony111, you start your post by saying that you see things in entirety but interestingly you end your post by questioning about one or two low scores of Australia. Don't you think you are contradicting yourself by doing that? My take - EVEN IF India were to get bowled out for such low scores in a match or two, I wouldn't fault Dhoni for that. I don't know about you, but I see things in entirety. I don't expect others to see things in entirety but it would be nice if one can see things in entirety. Easier said than done. But no harm in giving it a try.

  • Harmon on January 19, 2013, 21:00 GMT


    I've said something similar on the Ind-Eng 3rd ODI article today. I got no problems with DRS but it is way too expensive for the results it promises. And even with those high costs - accuracy is not guaranteed. Even with much simpler tools we often get to know which was a good decision and which was a bad decision then why not use them instead of insisting on a heavy-duty set up that DRS needs?

    Instead of focusing on the problem of eliminating umpiring mistakes the focus has been on bringing DRS in and when BCCI says that the results of DRS are not satisfactory when seen with its costs everyone gets busy in BCCI bashing.

    Now when I look back and think, I think this looks so obvious and simple. We've had slo-mo and super slo- mo cameras for long now. We've had 3rd umpire for 20 yrs now - just use them along with the benefit of 2nd look and some common sense.

  • Priyal on January 19, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    The last time Sri Lanka played Australia (Nov 2010) at Brisbane they were all out for 115 batting first. So maybe the Brisbane wicket is not suitable for 1 day least that's what the ICC wouldd be saying if this happened on any sub-continent wicket. 115 is probably a winning score if Oz battet first.

  • Richard on January 19, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    @Harmony111-Actually Hash_Tag comes comes across as relatively sensible, it's you with the obsessive compulsions that you are unable to control.