Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
Australia 124 for 4 (Maxwell 39, Finch 35, Theekshana 3-24) beat Sri Lanka 121 for 6 (Shanaka 39*, Chandimal 25, Richardson 3-21, Agar 1-14) by six wickets
Australia's enviable bowling depth was underlined in their comfortable six-wicket victory over beleaguered Sri Lanka in match three, as they clinched the T20I series in Canberra.
In a polished performance reminiscent of their T20 World Cup triumph, Australia's new-look attack without mainstays Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa restricted Sri Lanka to a lowly 121 for 6 with quick Kane Richardson picking up three wickets.
Australia's batting wasn't nearly as ruthless, but they were never in danger and overhauled the paltry target in the 17th over.
Australia showcase vaunted bowling depth
With Cummins and Zampa resting, Australia's fringe bowlers grabbed their opportunities. After being smashed for 44 runs off four overs in match two, Richardson bounced back with two wickets in the third over.
Richardson starred in the recent BBL season but was somewhat overshadowed having to prop up wooden spooners Melbourne Renegades. After struggling on Sunday, Richardson showed off his tricks and returned in the 17th over with a clever full-length slower ball to knock over Dinesh Chandimal.
He wasn't alone in making a statement. Much like he does for BBL champion Perth Scorchers, Ashton Agar's left-arm spin was miserly in the middle overs and he finished with 1 for 14 off four overs. In trademark fashion, the lanky Agar found grip and bounce in his first match for Australia since his sole game at last year's T20 World Cup against England.
While allrounder Daniel Sams didn't take a wicket, the left-armer bowled accurately and he stole the show with a spectacular diving outfield catch along the ropes.
It puts the pressure on quick Mitchell Starc, whose struggles in the T20 format continued with a wicketless effort punctuated by a wild delivery that landed near second slip and flew to the boundary.
Sri Lanka's batting woes continue
Apart from a stunning late onslaught in match two, Sri Lanka's batting has barely fired a shot in this series. In a must-win match, Sri Lanka sought an aggressive approach as they blasted 17 runs off the opening two overs in an eye-catching start.
But it was fool's gold with Danushka Gunathilaka's dismissal attempting a scoop shot triggering a slew of tame dismissals. Having served a seven-day isolation following a positive Covid-19 result, Kusal Mendis' sluggishness was understandable as he spooned a return catch to Agar.
In a major hole at 40 for 4, Sri Lanka were forced to rebuild through Chandimal and Dasun Shanaka. They started slowly before a flurry of late boundaries lifted Sri Lanka, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Once again, they rued a mishmash of a batting effort, which was either manic or stagnant. Tied down mid-innings, Sri Lanka were anchored to the crease and they finished with 56 dot balls which proved costly.
Finch and Maxwell steer Australia to victory
With Steven Smith out with concussion, Australia had a chance to revamp their batting and they pulled a surprise with Agar elevated to open as a pinch-hitter. It didn't do the trick with Agar, who normally bats at No.7 or 8, falling for 13 to Maheesh Theekshana, who had revived Sri Lanka's sagging hopes by removing Ben McDermott on the first ball of the innings.
Australia's hopes of an easy chase eroded on a tricky Manuka Oval pitch against a pumped-up Sri Lanka attack, which was further depleted when left-arm quick Numan Thushara limped off with an apparent side strain injury in the fourth over.
With skipper Aaron Finch playing cautiously, having posted just one half-century in his prior 14 T20Is, Glenn Maxwell released the pressure with typical flair marked by an outrageous switch-hit six off spinner Jeffrey Vandersay. Maxwell holed out to Theekshana in the 11th over but Sri Lanka's sloppy fielding made sure there would be no late twist.
Finch didn't quite rediscover his belligerent best but played determinedly in a bid to emerge from his drought. To his chagrin, he couldn't seal the deal as he fell for 35 but Australia soon wrapped up the series in straight sets.
Over 17 • AUS 124/4Australia won by 6 wickets (with 19 balls remaining)
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