Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 3rd ODI, Sydney February 8, 2008

Bracken slides Sri Lanka to 128-run defeat

Australia 6 for 253 (Clarke 77*, Gilchrist 61) beat Sri Lanka 125 (Sangakkara 42, Bracken 5-47) by 128 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Brett Lee jumps for joy after knocking over Sanath Jayasuriya for 7 early in Sri Lanka's failed chase © Getty Images
 

It was a rematch between last year's World Cup finalists that turned into a mismatch. Nathan Bracken earned career-best figures as he bowled Australia to a comfortable 128-run win, exploiting the slow SCG pitch to perfection after Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist set up an imposing target of 6 for 253.

Kumar Sangakkara looked like carrying on from his last international innings in Australia - he made 192 in the Hobart Test in November - as he cracked 16 off a Brett Lee over. However, when Bracken trapped him lbw with a delivery that angled in towards middle stump and kept low, Sri Lanka's hopes quickly slipped away.

Bracken finished with 5 for 47 when he collected the final wicket as Muttiah Muralitharan skied a catch to the outfield and the CB Series had its first result following a pair of wash-outs in Brisbane. The rot began with Sangakkara's dismissal, which sparked a disastrous spell in which they lost 7 for 51.

As if to prove it simply wasn't Sri Lanka's night, Lasith Malinga was run out in unlucky circumstances when he took a single and grounded his bat past the crease, but in the process it knocked out of his hands moments before Andrew Symonds' throw hit the stumps. His feet were in the air and Sri Lanka were on the ground.

At that point it had not seemed long since Sangakkara brightened Sri Lanka's prospects with a series of vicious strokes off Lee. He top edged an attempted pull to third man for four but instead of putting the shot away, Sangakkara simply decided that practice makes perfect. Two further pulls from on and outside off stump raced to the boundary before he finished the over with a cracking cover drive that just evaded the diving Symonds.

But one over of joy does not make a 50-over victory. Bracken led a strong bowling effort, having Chamara Kapugedera caught sharply by Matthew Hayden at first slip before Tillakaratne Dilshan thrashed a chance to long-off. Sri Lanka had needed almost the highest successful ODI chase at the SCG - the record is Australia's 260 set in 1998-99 - but they never got close.

The slow-and-low pitch was not easy to bat on but the visitors made much harder work of it than Australia. There was also the matter of the different mindsets; Sri Lanka took a defensive approach that allowed Clarke to to finish unbeaten on 77 after Gilchrist set up the total with 61.

Clarke poked, prodded and sprinted his way to a half-century as he batted to fields that seemed designed just to stop boundaries. That part of Sri Lanka's plan worked as Clarke struck only two fours and one six, but he was content to bat himself in with hurried singles and twos.

Apart from a six lofted over long-on against Muralitharan early in his innings, Clarke was not forced to take many risks. His first four was an unconvincing bottom edge that flew to third man and took him to 45 but his second - and last - was a more orthodox drive through cover that brought him his fifty from 63 balls.

Jayawardene's tactics had been defensive from the start and there was no cordon in the third over when Hayden edged Chaminda Vaas to the vacant first-slip position. That allowed the 65-run opening stand that Australia used as a platform for their solid effort.

The Sydney crowd was denied a Gilchrist century and settled for a sensible knock from the hometown hero Clarke. Gilchrist's record playing Sri Lanka - five of his 15 ODI centuries came against them - suggested a big innings but there was no repeat of the last time the two sides met, when he made 149 in the World Cup final.

Although he was more guarded than usual on the unhelpful pitch, Gilchrist gave the fans a couple of flashbacks to his powerful prime. He rocked back to pull Malinga viciously over midwicket for six and sent Ishara Amerasinghe through and over cover for boundaries.

His half-century took more than half the innings, which is almost unheard of for Gilchrist, and his 81-ball effort ended on when Tony Hill ruled him lbw trying to slog-sweep Kapugedera. Gilchrist departed to a standing ovation and it will become a familiar feeling for him over the next month as he completes his farewell. Triple-figures or not, his final series is beginning on a high note.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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