Mathews makes Australia sweat
Australia held off a spirited late rally from Angelo Mathews to secure a dramatic five-run triumph over Sri Lanka in the third match of the Commonwealth Bank one-day international tri-series in Perth.
The hosts - victors over India in their first outing - looked set to cruise to a second straight win when they reduced Mahela Jayawardene’s side, who were set a target of 232, to 143 for seven and then 180 for nine.
However, Mathews kept Sri Lanka in the hunt, sharing 46 with last man Dhammika Prasad and taking 11 runs from the first three balls of the final over, which began with his side requiring 18.
After Prasad had scrambled a single to get Mathews back on strike, the all-rounder was caught at long-on off left-armer Mitchell Starc as he aimed to clear the ropes and complete a remarkable fightback.
Mathews was one of five Sri Lankans to claim two wickets earlier in the day as Australia laboured to 231 all out in 49.1 overs. Skipper Michael Clarke top-scored with 57 from 88 deliveries.
The belligerent David Warner got the hosts off to a predictably brisk start, but Matthew Wade and Ricky Ponting could only manage one run apiece. Australia’s wicketkeeper was caught behind off Nuwan Kulasekara, while Ponting was leg before to a Lasith Malinga delivery that nipped back.
After dashing to 34 with the aid of four fours and a six, Warner then played on to Mathews before Kulasekara, leaping to his right, held on to a superb one-handed catch off his own bowling to account for Mike Hussey.
Clarke did his best to steady the ship, sharing 49 with David Hussey, caught at short cover for 27 off Malinga, and 56 with Dan Christian.
Wickets then fell in three successive overs, off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake accounting for Christian and Ryan Harris either side of Clarke picking out midwicket to provide Mathews with his second scalp.
Clint McKay’s run-a-ball 25 provided Australia with some valuable late momentum, and they received another boost when Upul Tharanga dabbed Starc to slip in the fourth over of Sri Lanka’s reply.
A second-wicket partnership of 50 ended when Sangakkara was run out by McKay, following a mix-up with Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was then caught behind for 40 via an inside edge off Ryan Harris.
After Jayawardene and Thirimanne had fallen cheaply, Clarke struck a significant blow for Australia when he trapped Dinesh Chandimal lbw for 37 with his first ball.
Kulasekara, Senanayake and Malinga were all unable to reach double figures, but Mathews finally found a willing ally in Prasad.
The 10th-wicket duo kept their side in the hunt and when Mathews clubbed a six over long-off to leave eight needed from four balls, a Sri Lanka victory suddenly appeared possible, only for Starc to have the final say.