Sri Lanka sneak low-scoring victory
Sri Lanka made hard work of chasing Australia’s paltry 75 all out, winning by just four wickets in Brisbane to go 2-1 up with two games to play.
Nuwan Kulasekara was the tormentor-in-chief, removing four of Australia’s top five en route to a limited-overs-best of 5-22 from 10 overs as the hosts capitulated to 40 for nine. Kulasekara's figures were the second-best in a Gabba one-day international after Chris Woakes' 6-45 for England versus Australia in 2011.
That Australia edged past their lowest total of 70, scored against England in 1977 and New Zealand in 1986, was thanks to Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty adding 34 for the last wicket.
Mitchell Johnson, who took 3-11, reduced the tourists to 37 for four but they limped to 76 for six from 20 overs.
Michael Clarke, returning to a near full-strength side, opted to bat first and Mahela Jayawardene said he would have done the same as both captains underestimated the swing on offer from intense humidity.
Australia found themselves in trouble from the start as Sri Lanka bowled a tight line.
Angelo Matthews had David Warner held at mid-off before Kulasekara struck thrice in two overs. Phil Hughes edged to slip and, in the seamer’s next set of six, David Hussey was caught behind on review and George Bailey was lbw padding up.
Kulasekara again gained two wickets in an over as Clarke had his middle stump knocked back and Moises Henriques was also bowled through the gate.
Johnson survived Lasith Malinga’s lbw review but was bowled later in the over. The paceman broke through in three straight overs for figures of 3-14 from seven, with Matthew Wade getting a leading edge to backward point and Clint McKay caught behind.
Ironic cheers rang around the stands when Australia passed 50 in the 22nd over, but Doherty looped Shaminda Eranga to cover to end the innings in the 27th. His 15 and Starc’s unbeaten 22 were Australia’s only double-figure scores.
McKay snared Jayawardene in the first over of the reply, brilliantly caught at backward point by Warner diving to his left, but it was the introduction of Johnson in the 10th that had Sri Lanka rocking.
The left-armer bizarrely removed Tillakaratne Dilshan for 22 with his third delivery, the right-hander trying to withdraw his bat but only steering the ball to first slip.
In Johnson’s next over Lahiru Thirimanne was held at point and Mathews went first ball, cramped by a bouncer and looping an easy chance. Upul Tharanga survived the hat-trick ball, digging out a fine yorker.
What would normally have been a mid-innings break was taken at 48 for four after 13 overs. In the first over back Kushal Perera hit two fours through cover, punishing wide McKay deliveries.
Although Starc had Tharanga caught at first slip, Thisara Perera made six off the next over to take his side within as many of victory.
Jeevan Mendis tried to get there in one hit off Henriques but skied the ball only to be dropped by the usually reliable Warner at cover.
Mendis top-edged Starc to midwicket to add to the drama but, later in the over, Perera struck the winning boundary to end on 22.