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August 17, 2011
Australia captain Michael Clarke pointed to the failure of his top-order batsmen to set a platform as the primary reason for a heavy loss to Sri Lanka in the third ODI match in Hambantota.
The tourists fell 78 runs short of Sri Lanka's 286 for 9 and the slinging paceman Lasith Malinga took much of the credit after claiming 5 for 28.
But also significant was the contribution of the debutant Shaminda Eranga, who nipped out Brad Haddin and Ricky Ponting in his opening spell to leave the Australians at 52 for 3 in the chase. Clarke clearly needed, and expected, a better start from his top three batsmen.
"We didn't perform well enough at the top of the order," Clarke said. "We have no excuses. We didn't perform as well as we would like and we know that.
"We have some work to do over the next few days because, as I said from the start, playing Sri Lanka, especially in their home conditions, you have to be at your best to beat them."
Haddin's dismissal was perhaps the most noteworthy, as Australia's wicketkeeper once again left a yawning gap between bat and pad to be bowled by a delivery that seamed back at him.
It is a manner of dimissal that had already happened once on this tour - against Ajantha Mendis in the first Twenty20 - and the Sri Lankans will continue to pursue that line through the remainder of the ODIs and then the Tests.
Australia have not selected a reserve keeper for this tour, which may become a sore point if Haddin's run-scoring continues to dip.
The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, felt restored after recovering from a pair of hidings in the first two matches. The relief of their captain, Tillakaratne Dilshan, was obvious.
"The first 10 overs were crucial, and we did well to see them off," Dilshan said. "All the batsmen that followed did well. We believed 260 was good to defend, and we proved it. [Shaminda] Eranga bowled really well, and Malinga was good as usual."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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