Ugly finish just 'heat of the moment'
The Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews and his Australia counterpart George Bailey have played down the ugly scenes at the end of the second Twenty20 as "heat-of-the-moment stuff" and declared there was no lingering ill-feeling after the match. Sri Lanka's near two-month tour of Australia ended with a last-ball victory in the Melbourne match but the battle did not appear to end there as players heatedly exchanged words on the field after the game.
The problems appeared to begin when a large group of Sri Lanka players gathered for a conference before the final ball of the match, when Glenn Maxwell needed four off Thisara Perera to steal an Australian victory. The debate amongst the Sri Lankans dragged on and Maxwell, left standing at the crease and waiting, told the Sri Lankans to get on with it, to which Mahela Jayawardene responded in kind.
After Maxwell failed to make contact with the last ball, Perera taunted the batsman and Maxwell was clearly making his opinion known while shaking hands with the Sri Lankans. The ill-feeling continued when Matthew Wade engaged in some verbals with Jayawardene and Perera while the handshakes took place, and Bailey had to encourage his men to put it all behind them.
"It was just the heat of the moment," Mathews said after the match. "Things happen. You exchange a few words. They play it hard. We play it hard. So that's it. After the game you're friends."
Bailey said he was unsure of the source of the trouble because he was not on the field at the time, but he agreed with Mathews that it was part and parcel of such a tight finish.
"Passion mate. People care about the game and care about the way they play," Bailey said. "I know we get along very well with this side. Even just the chats there coming off, I think it's all just heat-of-the-moment stuff. But I think what you're seeing is individuals and teams that are pretty keen to win."
After the match, Maxwell tweeted: "Absolutely shattered... I went into the Sri Lankan rooms after and they apologised for going over the top. All good." In a second tweet, he said: "Just to clarify... I apologized to Mahela and SL players as well. I have a good friendship with Mahela, and it's gonna stay that way!"
Just to clarify... I apologized to Mahela and SL players as well. I have a good friendship with Mahela, and it's gonna stay that way!— Glenn Maxwell (@Gmaxi_32) January 28, 2013
The Sri Lankans were relieved to come away with a victory after a 45-minute rain delay resulted in an adjusted Duckworth-Lewis target that appeared to favour Australia. At the start of the break, Australia needed another 102 from the remaining 10 overs with eight wickets in hand, but the revised target left them requiring 62 from five overs, which with so many wickets in hand allowed them to swing hard and take risks.
The rain had lasted only a few minutes but the delay dragged on and on as the groundstaff struggled to mop up the water from the outfield, a similar situation to the one the teams faced during the abandoned ODI in Sydney last week. The TV commentators were agitated for a quick resumption and the umpires took a cautious approach, and Mathews said despite the wet outfield he was glad play was able to restart for the sake of the 39,427 spectators.
"The outfield was extremely wet," Mathews said. "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 couldn't disappoint the crowd which 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. It was very demanding conditions but we wanted to get out there and get a game for the crowd."
Bailey conceded that the revised target probably favoured his team, but he said it was not an unreasonable compromise given the state of the game when the rain came.
"I've got no idea how Duckworth-Lewis works," Bailey said. "I think generally it does suit the team batting second, just because you know exactly what you have to do. When they're shortening the target and the overs you've still got your wickets in hand. There is a slight advantage there. But I think 62 off five [overs] was a pretty fair summation of where that game was at."
Bailey nearly got the Australians home, striking 45 from 36 balls, but when he fell in the final over it left 16 needed from the last four balls. A waist-high full toss from Perera was a bonus for Australia, and Mathews said during the conference before the last ball there were numerous voices trying to tell Perera what to do, but in the end the captain trusted the bowler to come up with his own plan.
"It was a bit nervous. All the guys got a bit excited and I just wanted to keep it calm," Mathews said. "I told Thisara to go for what his instincts said, because he's the bowler. I thought he bowled a brilliant over considering the fact that it was demanding conditions as well. You couldn't really hold on to the ball because it wasn't gripping. It was wet, the outfield was wet. It was not easy but I thought he bowled a brilliant over."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here