Sri Lanka make finals in exciting finale
Sri Lanka sealed their place in the Commonwealth Bank Series finals courtesy of a thrilling last-over victory against Australia at Melbourne.
Tuesday’s dramatic defeat to India - in which Virat Kohli struck an astonishing unbeaten 133 as his side chased 321 in 36.4 overs to secure a bonus-point victory - left Sri Lanka needing at least a tie today.
The tourists posted a below-par score as, despite fluent half-centuries from Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, they were bowled out for 238 with Dan Christian taking a hat-trick.
However, Sri Lanka’s display in the field was considerably better than that of three days ago and Nuwan Kulasekara held his nerve to have David Hussey caught at long-off for 74 at the start of the last over.
That sealed a nine-run victory and ensured Mahela Jayawardene’s men will face Australia in a three-match finale to what has proved an enthralling triangular series.
Earlier, James Pattinson and Christian, who took 4-51 and 5-31 respectively, starred as Sri Lanka were dismissed for what seemed an inadequate total.
The tourists were immediately in trouble as Jayawardene was run out by Mike Hussey in the second over before Tillakaratne Dilshan nicked Pattinson behind, Matthew Wade taking the catch.
But Sangakarra and Chandimal responded impressively, with the latter’s fluency being epitomised by a couple of lofty sixes. The former, meanwhile, was more reserved, though the duo complemented each other nicely in a century partnership.
Pattinson’s return to the attack yielded a breakthrough as Sri Lanka slipped to 140 for three when Sangakarra pulled to Peter Forrest on 64. Chandimal and Thirimanne rebuilt, but Pattinson again found a breakthrough as the former attempted one shot too many and fell for 75 when he miscued to mid-off.
Sri Lanka were still looking on top at that stage, but Christian’s heroics turned the tables. After snaring Angelo Mathews, the all-rounder left the Melbourne Cricket Ground rocking by becoming the fourth Australian - following in the footsteps of Bruce Reid, Anthony Stuart and Brett Lee - to take a one-day international hat-trick.
Christian first had Thisara Perera caught at the midwicket boundary and, after trapping Sachithra Senanayake plumb in front, he rapped Kulasekara on the pad. The ball appeared to be missing leg stump, but umpire Rod Tucker raised the finger to spark jubilant scenes.
That left Sri Lanka in trouble, though some late hitting from Thirimanne - who struck a 59-ball 51 - took them to their eventual total.
A fine new-ball spell from Lasith Malinga and Kulasekara, who returned 4-49 and 2-38 respectively, left Australia struggling at 26 for three; David Warner, Wade and Forrest departed early.
Shane Watson, captaining in the absence of Michael Clarke, rebuilt thereafter alongside Mike Hussey, but, with the partnership on 87, the latter nicked Thirimanne behind. Watson fell soon for 65 soon after, bowled by a typical Malinga yorker, and wickets continued to fall at regular intervals.
David Hussey was fighting a lone battle for Australia, but, after impressively taking the game to the last over, holed out to spark an almighty roar from the Sri Lankan contingent in the crowd.