Dilshan's brilliance sinks Australia
Australia suffered their first home finals loss in nine years as their chase froze under extreme Sri Lankan pressure and the brilliant fielding of Tillakaratne Dilshan. Sri Lanka bowled well and their defensive effort was superb, but the home side's batting was a disaster as they gave up five run-outs - four horrible ones to Dilshan - and a 22-run loss in their most tentative effort of the summer.
Sri Lanka head to Sydney for Sunday's second final with a 1-0 lead and need to win only one of the following two games for an upset series victory. Australia led the group phase by 13 points, but that was not respected today as they were ambushed by a careful batting performance that carried a deadly sting in the tail. It was followed by a stunning display in the field that made their opponents' running between wickets look like the acts of social games. It could be their most costly showing of the season.
Defending a target of 275, which relied on a late charge of 58 in 5.1 overs from Dilshan and Chamara Kapugedera, Sri Lanka's huddle throbbed as they collected 3 for 13 to dump Australia to 3 for 64 in the 15th over. The dismissal of Adam Gilchrist for 26 silenced the home fans, but the run-outs of Ponting without facing a ball and Martyn for 1 shocked them. By the time Simon Katich departed for 56 to the third mistake and Michael Hussey was upended for the fourth the supporters were familiar with such catastrophes and the result was sealed.
The ground was not a sell-out so noise was not a factor, but the batsmen failed to hear the calls of their partners and instead took in the celebrations of Dilshan. Ponting and Katich ended up at the same end, Martyn was so far out from the direct hit he didn't bother sprinting or sliding his bat, Katich was sent back by Michael Clarke, and Hussey suffered in another mix-up. No decision was close, and Dilshan then grabbed a catch off James Hopes, who could not provide a Supersub salvage operation.
Katich struck six clever boundaries to give his side some well-needed stability until his dismissal at 5 for 122, leaving the job of an extended run-a-ball chase to Clarke. Muttiah Muralitharan made that difficult with 3 for 40 and while Clarke produced a last-ditch 80 from 83 balls that made the score look respectable, Australia had been trying to catch up since giving up 88 runs in the final ten overs of the first innings.
"I didn't think we did too much wrong with the ball until the last five and then we had brain snaps with the batting," Ponting said. "We had five run-outs and a stumping with a few serious communication mix-ups and it cost us."
Australia were comfortably placed as Sri Lanka reached 3 for 186 after 40 overs, but their advantage was quickly lost despite Nathan Bracken claiming 3 for 61. Kapugedera, an 18-year-old playing in his first international series, smashed two sixes from Symonds and another from Bracken in the final over of an amazing 38 from only 21 balls.
Dilshan, who had 26 off 20, also struck some hefty blows, sweeping Symonds for a six and lofting a Lee delivery on top of one of the Chappell Stands to start a memorable day. He didn't get a wicket, but everything else he touched seemed to turn the match, and Australia were the losing side in a VB Series decider for the first time since South Africa beat them by six runs in 1997-98. That was also the opening game of the contest and Australia fought back to claim the series.
After arriving in the country in despair following disastrous tours of India and New Zealand, Sri Lanka are now buzzing with belief and the Sydney surface will also suit them. Most importantly, they know how to disrupt the rhythm of Australia's batsmen, who tonight were made to run like newborn foals by Dilshan.
Sanath Jayasuriya c Hogg b Clark 22 (1 for 44)
Short ball pulled to deep square leg
Marvan Atapattu b Hogg 53 (2 for 109)
Tried to sweep and hit leg stump
Mahela Jayawardene c&b Clark 11 (3 for 133)
Hard drive that was hugged to bowler's ribs
Russel Arnold c Symonds b Bracken 24 (4 for 200)
Full toss straight to cover
Kumar Sangakkara c&b Symonds 83 (5 for 212)
Thumped back to Symonds's left for comfortable take
Chamara Kapugedera c Symonds b Bracken 38 (6 for 270)
Lobbed pull to midwicket
Chaminda Vaas run out 1 (7 for 272)
Hit to mid-on; caught short at wicketkeeper's end
Muttiah Muralitharan c Symonds b Bracken 0 (8 for 272)
Swiped to midwicket
Adam Gilchrist c Arnold b Kulasekara 26 (1 for 51)
Clipped high to backward square leg and bobbled in fielder's hands
Ricky Ponting run out 0 (2 for 52)
Ponting insisted on single to point; Katich said no and held his ground
Damien Martyn run out 1 (3 for 64)
Direct hit by Dilshan from forward point
Andrew Symonds st Sangakkara b Muralitharan 16 (4 for 94)
Down the pitch and missed the doosra
Simon Katich run out 56 (5 for 122)
Dilshan again after diving save
Michael Hussey run out 16 (6 for 156)
Dilshan takes advantage of another mix-up
James Hopes c Dilshan b Muralitharan 3 (7 for 165)
Sharp square-leg catch for man of the moment
Brad Hogg c Jayasuriya b Bandara 1 (8 for 166)
Top-edged sweep to short fine leg
Brett Lee b Muralitharan 19 (9 for 213)
Big offspinner through the gate
Michael Clarke run out 80 (252)
Caught short backing up
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo