Johnson bowls Australia to 1-0 lead
Australia 192 for 3 (Watson 69, Clarke 53*, Ponting 53) beat Sri Lanka 191 (Randiv 41, Johnson 6-31) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mitchell Johnson produced the fourth-best figures in Australia's one-day history to set his team on the path to a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Pallekele. After losing the Twenty20s, Australia found a new spark with the arrival of the 50-over captain Michael Clarke, who attacked in the field and then helped steer the side home with Ricky Ponting after Shane Watson set up the chase.
The first ten overs of the match seemed like an extension of the T20s, as Sri Lanka's openers gave their side a strong start with a 54-run stand. After the first wicket fell, though, the rest of the day belonged to Australia. Most surprisingly, given all the talk in the build-up to the game, it was aggressive pace bowling that set the tone for the match.
Such was the expectation that spin would be the dominant force that Johnson was the sixth bowler Clarke turned to after losing the toss. He struck with his third delivery, and ran through the middle order to finish with 6 for 31, his best limited-overs figures and an effort surpassed only by Glenn McGrath, Andy Bichel and Gary Gilmour for Australia.
Sri Lanka's 191 was a sub-par total on a good pitch but against the spin of Ajantha Mendis, who bamboozled the Australians in the second T20, a successful chase was far from a done deal. And while none of the batsmen were completely comfortable against Mendis, they generally found a way to survive, and handled him far better than they had two days ago.
For Watson, the method was simply to use his might. He struck six sixes in a brutal innings, twice clearing the boundary against Mendis and twice off Suraj Randiv, and he was at his best against the slow men when he got his front foot to the pitch of the ball. He had one life on 46 when, next ball after a six over long-off, he cut Mendis straight to point, where a listless Suranga Lakmal dropped a sitter.
Perhaps Lakmal was still thinking about the previous over, in which he had leaked 12 runs against Watson, who was merciless with his pulls when the seamers dropped short. Watson eventually departed for 69 of the 81 Australia had at the time, via a top-edged sweep off Randiv. Despite his 51-ball blitz, Watson didn't always pick the spinners, although he was a picture of composure compared to his opening partner, Brad Haddin, who managed 12 off 18 balls.
Haddin found Mendis harder to read than a Sinhalese newspaper. He played inside balls that turned away, and outside offbreaks, poking his bat forward with little more than hope. It was only a matter of time before Mendis had his man, and the wicket came when Haddin didn't pick a delivery that turned in through the gate and bowled him. It could be a tough tour for Haddin unless he finds a way to handle Mendis.
Fortunately for Haddin, the bowlers had ensured a gettable target. And the addition of Clarke and Ponting gave the middle order some starch. They combined for a 101-run partnership, both reaching half-centuries and showing that their experience could be a key factor in the series, albeit that their efforts in this match came without a great deal of pressure.
Ponting fell just before the victory was sealed, bowled for 53 as he tried to sweep Randiv, but Clarke stayed until the end. It was a calm innings from Clarke, who finished unbeaten on 53, having marshalled his men well in the field.
Dilshan and Upul Tharanga, who was returning after serving his three-month suspension for failing a drug test, put together a good opening partnership, but that ended when Tharanga (34) was bowled trying to cut Xavier Doherty. A big gap had been left on the off side, tempting Tharanga to play against the spin, and the plan succeeded.
The part-time spinner, David Hussey, struck soon after when Dilshan, on 29, threw his wicket away by lofting to mid-off. That was the first wicket in a costly spell for Sri Lanka, in which they lost three wickets for 13 runs. Mahela Jayawardene flashed at a wide one from Johnson and was caught low to the ground by Haddin, before Johnson deceived Sangakkara (16) with a fullish slower ball that was driven to short cover.
And when Clarke hurled his left hand out to snare Dinesh Chandimal for 12 off the bowling of Doug Bollinger, Sri Lanka were 101 for 5. A quick yorker from Johnson rattled the stumps of Jeevan Mendis for 2, before Angelo Mathews had a brain-freeze and was caught at mid-off, trying to send Johnson over the boundary.
Randiv and Nuwan Kulasekara rebuilt with a 60-run partnership for the eighth wicket, but Randiv became Johnson's fifth wicket when he holed out to long-off. Later in the same over - the 39th of the innings - Johnson came around the wicket and knocked back the off stump of Ajantha Mendis to secure his first six-wicket haul in an ODI.
The fightback quickly fizzled out when Kulasekara (34) pulled to deep midwicket, where a low catch from Michael Hussey gave Brett Lee his 350th one-day international wicket. It was just another happy moment for the Australians on their best day of the tour, and on one of the finest days of Johnson's international career.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo