Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st T20I, Melbourne February 17, 2017

Sri Lanka sneak through after Gunaratne fifty


Sri Lanka 5 for 172 (Gunaratne 52, Munaweera 44) beat Australia 6 for 168 (Finch 43, Malinga 2-29) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Asela Gunaratne continued his good form in international cricket © Getty Images

Australia's "best of the Big Bash League" took Sri Lanka to the final ball. The hosts and their three debutants fought to the finish against the visitors in front of a raucous crowd at the MCG, but a win offered Sri Lanka the chance to wrap up the series at Kardinia Park on Sunday.

The Perth Scorchers' Andrew Tye was left with six runs to defend from the final over, and one from the final ball. Chamara Kapugedara surveyed the ring field then punched the winning boundary through the covers to secure the result. His composure ensured Sri Lanka finished in the ascendant after looking the more likely victors throughout their chase, largely due to a boundary count that outstripped the hosts, 21 to 13.

None of Australia's batsmen were able to go on to substantial scores after Upul Tharanga sent them in to bat, as a spongy pitch and disciplined Sri Lankan bowling denied them the ability to find a domineering rhythm. Sri Lanka's pursuit was then given the desired fast start by Dilshan Munaweera after Tharanga was dismissed in the first over, and Asela Gunaratne's nimble half-century guided the tourists to within sight of victory in front of 42,511 spectators, many of them barracking for Sri Lanka.

Gunaratne also made a brief but notable contribution with the ball, goading the captain Aaron Finch into a skier after he had appeared the man most likely to produce a truly damaging tally for Australia. The dismissal came two balls after Finch had hammered the biggest six of the night, and 10 runs after Michael Klinger's long delayed international debut was ended.

Lasith Malinga, making his own return from a long absence, bowled tidily and scooped a couple of late wickets, while Seekkuge Prasanna gave up a mere 23 runs from four overs that featured 10 dot balls and should have been rewarded with the wicket of Travis Head - dropped badly by Tharanga at point.

Tharanga's night did not improve when he opened the batting, as he received a perfectly pitched ball going across him from Pat Cummins in the first over and offered a thin edge through to Tim Paine behind the stumps. While the Australians celebrated this wicket with some gusto, they were soon haring about the MCG outfield as Munaweera and Niroshan Dickwella went to work.

Their partnership ensured the run rate was not going to be much of an issue, compelling Finch and his bowlers to chase wickets and consequentially offer more scoring opportunities. Adam Zampa delivered his usual handy spell and deserved his two wickets, but oddly Finch did not try his other spin options until introducing Ashton Turner with only a modest equation required.

Dilshan Munaweera's six fours in his quick innings rallied Sri Lanka till the halfway mark © Cricket Australia

Turner's offbreaks were rewarded by a smart Paine stumping to end Gunaratne's innings just when he appeared to be coasting home, before a debatable lbw verdict against Milinda Siriwardana closed the gap between the teams. In the end, Kapugedara was left needing a single from the final delivery, an assignment he made light work of with a steely drive for four.

Klinger, Turner and Billy Stanlake were all named for their first T20 appearances for Australia but there was no room for Ben Dunk and only three specialist batsmen selected - Finch, Head and Klinger. The visitors included the left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan, who was so effective against Australia in the Test series in Sri Lanka last year.

Malinga kicked off the evening with his first ball in a full international since February last year, and also bowled the first ball faced by Klinger in an international match no fewer than 19 years after his state debut. The pitch was a little on the sluggish side, but Klinger and the acting captain Finch made a decent start with a smattering of boundaries and hustling between the wickets.

They had 76 on the board by the time Klinger tried to tug a Sandakan googly to the leg side and was pouched by Malinga via the resultant top edge. Finch had his eye on a big score as leader, but after depositing Gunaratne's first ball well into the Great Southern Stand he tried to repeat the trick two balls later against an offcutter and popped another high catch.

From there the innings was a sequence of fits and starts, as Head, Moises Henriques, Turner and James Faulkner all offered cameo contributions. However, Prasanna's spell was particularly tidy, Sri Lanka did well to keep the boundary count down - only seven fours and four sixes in total - and two wickets in successive balls for Malinga in his final over also served to aid the tourists' ultimately winning cause.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rengaw2663616 on February 20, 2017, 0:53 GMT

    Bring on cameron white in to the squad......

  • zeepwr0395918 on February 19, 2017, 19:28 GMT

    It would have been great if this was a tri-series and Bangladesh was the third team. Lions vs. Tigers vs. Kangaroos.

  • shivsh1693883 on February 19, 2017, 16:42 GMT

    Fantastic knock by Gunaratne. Batting and clean stroke play looks very similar to Kedar Jadav. Australia's second string lineup has to learn how to handle death bowling.

  • madhura on February 19, 2017, 0:15 GMT

    Honestly, do we really need Matthews and Chandi at the moment?

  • gemba93344077 on February 18, 2017, 23:38 GMT

    @NRLMAN1908 making all the excuses in the world to defend his mediocre aus team. It doesnt matter if it is the aus national team or the Aus x,y,z teams, SL have beaten them all in australia! Cricket Aus hid their 'best' players in india, otherwise they'll get humiliated as well

  • siddharth110575 on February 18, 2017, 17:21 GMT

    Well, looking at the number of comments trying to belittle this SL win calling it against AUS second string. Barring maybe couple of players this was quite decent T20 side and were beaten fair and square by SL who themselves had number of youngsters in their ranks! So in my view it is a good win and should be accepted as such. Just wondering though AUS cricket board strategy behind this scheduling, this clash of two series should have been obvious to them an year back!

  • amindh6043107 on February 18, 2017, 14:56 GMT

    @nriman1908 . Since when are S marsh, Wade,Lyon,Hazelwoodand hadscombe guarenteed first choice players for australias best T20 team ? They fall below the catergpry of finch,head,cummins ,zampa and faulkner WHO incidently played this particular match . ( in t20's of course , other formats are a different story )

  • Greg on February 18, 2017, 13:32 GMT

    @RohanMarkJay If anyone was humiliated it was Sri Lanka who could only beat an Australia B Team on the last ball. Missing Smith, Warner, Handscomb, Hazlewood, Bird, Khawaja, Lyon, M.Marsh, S.Marsh, Maxwell, Starc & Wade - only 12 players. It shouldn't be classed as an international!

  • Mark on February 18, 2017, 10:50 GMT

    Sri Lanka definitely has some kind of psychological hold over Australia. On paper you would think the Aussies would win easily. But every time Sri Lankan team faces Australia. They just feel and play much better and they scrap and fight hard against the Aussies. First Sri Lanka humiliated Australia by beating them 3-0 in the test series. Now beating Australia at their MCG stronghold where they rarely lose against anyone. Sri Lankans are fighters, especially when they play Australia or England. Its like they have some kind ancient score to settle. Anyway well played. Australia humiliated again by the Sri lankans. LOL!. Well Played.

  • Captain.JackSparrow.BlackPearl on February 18, 2017, 10:30 GMT

    This is to the people who are saying that Sri lanka played against AUS B team. :D .. A team , B team doesn't matter guys .. Results says , Sri lanka beat Australia and That matters :D .. So tell your Selectors to send better team next time :D :D good luck

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