Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Melbourne March 2, 2012

Sri Lanka in finals after nine-run win


Sri Lanka 238 (Chandimal 75, Sangakkara 64, Thirimanne 51, Christian 5-31, Pattinson 4-51) beat Australia 229 (D Hussey 74, Watson 65, Malinga 4-49) by nine runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sri Lanka entered this match with their fate in their own hands. It turns out those are pretty safe hands. Not even a hat-trick from Daniel Christian, a four-wicket comeback from James Pattinson, a captain's half-century from Shane Watson or a remarkable, late, fighting fifty from David Hussey could prevent Sri Lanka from winning the last qualifying match at the MCG. Lasith Malinga led a strong bowling performance to complete Sri Lanka's nine-run victory, which propelled them into the tri-series finals.

No doubt Australia were disappointed, for they must now enter the best-of-three deciders knowing they have lost their previous three games to their Sri Lankan opponents. But India would have been even more gutted. An Australia win would have sent Sri Lanka packing and secured India a place in the finals. Instead, MS Dhoni's men will now fly home at the weekend, ending a disheartening three-month tour.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a chance to win a tri-series in Australia for the first time at their ninth attempt. Their total of 238 at the MCG, set up by half-centuries from Dinesh Chandimal, Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne, seemed a fraction skinny on what looked like a reasonable batting surface. But despite losing Thisara Perera to injury during his first over, Sri Lanka's total proved defendable with Malinga in their attack.

Not that it was straightforward. Hussey's run-a-ball 74 nearly snatched victory for Australia. They needed 10 runs from the final over, bowled by Kulasekara, but Hussey holed out to long-off from the first ball of it and Sri Lanka celebrated. They had been on top early, when Australia were 3 for 26 after Malinga and Kulasekara troubled the top order, but then Australia fought back.

Batting at first drop, the stand-in captain Watson - Michael Clarke was not risked ahead of the finals - led Australia's fightback with a solid, composed 65 and he had good support from Michael Hussey (29). But once their 87-run stand was broken, Australia struggled again.

Michael Hussey has proven a handy partnership breaker with his slow-medium bowling recently and this time he was on the receiving end of a similar ploy, as Thirimanne drew an edge behind that was well taken by Sangakkara. It was Thirimanne's first international wicket and his second in all List A cricket, and importantly for Sri Lanka it was followed a few overs later by the departure of Watson.

Watson had brought up his half-century from his 61st delivery with a straight drive off Thirimanne and he had been strong when the bowlers had strayed too straight, but he was in no particular hurry. His innings, an encouraging one in his second match back from a long injury lay-off, ended when he played all around a fast, straight Malinga ball that knocked middle stump out of the ground.

David Hussey kept Australia afloat and did a fine job but his partners gradually dwindled. His fifth half-century of the series shot him to the top of the tournament runs tally but it wasn't quite enough for Australia, whose innings started with the loss of both David Warner and Matthew Wade, who had been reunited as the opening pair. Warner (6) slapped Malinga to short cover, a strange shot to a ball that sat up on him, and Wade was lbw for 9 to Kulasekara, before Peter Forrest tickled a catch behind for 2 when he tried to cut Malinga.

It was just the start Sri Lanka needed in the field after posting 238. Their three half-centuries at the top of the order made for a lopsided scorecard as the lower order struggled, especially against Christian, who collected a career-best 5 for 31 and wrote himself into the record books as the first player from Australia since Brett Lee in 2003 to take an ODI hat-trick, and the fourth overall alongside Lee, Bruce Reid and Anthony Stuart.

Christian was mobbed by his team-mates after completing the feat, which began when Thisara Perera skied a ball and was taken at deep midwicket by Michael Hussey, who caught the ball inside play, tossed it up before he fell over the rope and completed the catch after stepping back in. The ball had gone so high that the batsmen had crossed twice, leaving the new man Sachithra Senanayake on strike instead of the established Thirimanne.

Senanayake was lbw first ball and replays indicated the ball would have gone on to hit leg stump. The same could not have been said for the next delivery. Rod Tucker raised his finger to give Kulasekara lbw but the ball appeared to be sliding down leg side and replays confirmed it was a poor decision. Christian didn't care. It was a hat-trick, and they are rare.

Thirimanne (51) was good enough to help Sri Lanka survive their quota of overs, falling only in the penultimate over when he played on while trying to paddle sweep Pattinson. Rangana Herath remained 14 not out and Malinga was bowled off the last ball of the innings to give Christian his fifth wicket.

By batting out their time Sri Lanka ensured that the efforts of Sangakkara and Chandimal were not wasted. They had put on 123 for the third wicket and Chandimal was the more aggressive partner. He continued his good series and brought up his fifty off his 47th delivery with a glanced single off Clint McKay, before Sangakkara registered his in the same over from his 79th ball. Throughout his innings, Sangakkara had been in no hurry and didn't score a boundary until his 55th delivery, when he punched Ben Hilfenhaus forward of point.

His runs came largely through ones and twos and it was an important stabilising performance after Sri Lanka were 2 for 17. Sangakkara fell for 64 when he top-edged a pull off Pattinson, and his departure slowed Chandimal down. Chandimal was out for 75 from 84 when he too was beaten by the pace of Pattinson, lobbing a ball to mid-off.

Chandimal had been willing to play his strokes and he brought the crowd to life with a muscular hit that sailed straight over the head of the bowler Christian and crashed into the sightscreen. Another followed off the spin of Xavier Doherty, over long-on this time, and Chandimal spent most of his time hovering around the run-a-ball mark.

As it turned out, the Chandimal-Sangakkara combination was just what Sri Lanka needed after Mahela Jayawardene was run out early thanks to a poor call by Tillakaratne Dilshan, who followed by edging Pattinson behind. At that point, Sri Lanka were wobbling. But they will enter the finals with stability, and form against Australia, on their side.

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2012, 14:05 GMT

    @supadupamonk, No bro. its not same. remember 1996 semi finals where you guys did not allow to complete the match. Remember you guys almost crying even before the last world cup final match ended?. Do you see how our guys behave when they come and watch a match?. do they leave as bulk even before the match is over? majority dont. coz its not our life. its one match. anything could happen. of course there are some ppl who are not so. but avarage SL and indian spectators are different. Any comenteator will say it. You know it. You see the atmosphere when indians watching the match. Its like a funaral when its like India is not winning. I ll tell you bro. . enjoy the game. be with the team. Dont be too agressive for unnecessory things. Just have fun out of cricket. At least buy and indean flag and go to the game and enjoy the atmosphere. Win or loose be with the team, if loose be sad for that momnet . wave the flag. Sleep well. No fighting. (A Sri Lankan - your younger brother)

  • Mauli on March 4, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    Kyle_Jones235 - you're spot on with your comments. Golubhai clearly doesn't take defeat very well, although you'd think he'd be used to it by now after the Aussies humiliated them 4-0. Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all had to rebuild their teams after losing big star names to retirement, but have all emerged well. I think India are in for a big reality check when this happens to them, and it isn't far off. Never mind Golubhai, you just sit there and keep writing "Tendulkar is the greatest, Tendulkar is the greatest...."....boring!

  • Andrew on March 4, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    @JG2704 - its my experience that SL fans are amongst the most fairest in their comments on all matters EXCEPT anything to do with India. From what I have seen (this is not 100% of all comments), Indian fans give it to SL fans far worse.

  • Sreekanth on March 4, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    Good thing Sri Lanka won, now can let my 5yr old watch what he wants to watch

  • Ajay on March 4, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    The best two teams in the tournament went to the finals. Congrats to both of them. As far as Indian team is concerned, i think its high time BCCI and selectors acknowledge the slide. The previous 2-3 years were great for the indian team, when they won test matches and one day tournaments around the world and it finally culminated in world cup win. Things have changed, two huge series thrashings are too much to ignore. Un-Fortunately the proposed changes to the Ranji format and team selection for Asia cup has been disappointing.

  • duminda on March 4, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    @golubhai do u think india is better cricket than sl in aus?? go back and see when india came to aus & when sl came down there, sl lost first 2 bcz they just came down under from southafrica where as indians hammered on the entire australian summer, & cannot learn fast like srilanka winning 2-1 against sl didnt mean ur a better teeam, its the mistakes from srilankan team which help them for a tie & win against sl, but sl they beat the best side in thee world in there home 3 out of 3 so dont bee so jelous on that, srilanka is better than india always in aus, dont argue with it indian team, bcz our goal is to beat oz in oz u can enjoy ur home ipl , lolz

  • Kyle on March 4, 2012, 1:22 GMT

    @golubhai Stop being a sore loser and face reality buddy. Sri lanka have come to this series and played very consistent cricket, they were only beaten easily in one game, and all other games they lost were by close margins. But look at your team, they have been thrashed conistently this whole series... In the series before this, India lost 4-0, whilst Sri Lanka was in South Africa and only lost 2-1 which is much more respectable. Anyone that looks at it in an unbiased way will say that Sri Lanka deserved to be in the finals and India deserved to go home, simple as that.

  • Dummy4 on March 4, 2012, 1:15 GMT

    Ian chapel is the worst commentator i have seen i think he should be out of that team. he was the one who said Sri Lanka is not even close to Australia or India and they will struggle when they lost their matches at the start of the tournament. he also said lot of things against the seniors in the team. since they started winning he moved his comments against India and Australia. In his mind commentary is just to comment on some one no matter if makes any sense or not

  • Kyle on March 4, 2012, 1:13 GMT

    Indian fans are living in the past, that is why they still think their team are "World Champions", and that is why they hold onto useless players of the past like Tendulkar and Sehwag. Why would you even think that Australia would want to meet SL in the final over India? Sri Lanka has beaten the Aussies in the last 3 games they played... In the last 7 games SL has played in Aus they have beaten Aus 5 times. Whilst India got tharshed 4-0 in the tests against Aus, and have been equally thrashed by them in the ODI series... It's time to face the facts Indian fans, stop making lame excuses for your team and face reality.

  • I on March 3, 2012, 22:08 GMT

    What a game. So happy for Sri Lanka, a tiny island that has produced so many talented, exciting and accomplished cricketers. Best of luck for the finals - this in one Pakistan fan that will be rooting for you!

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