A nation dealing with its worst economic crisis and high inflation for months had something to celebrate Tuesday when Sri Lanka sealed a limited-overs cricket series victory with a game to spare against Australia with a last-ball thriller in Game 4.
Having been sent in and restricted to 258 in 49 overs, Dasun Shanaka’s Sri Lanka lineup held its nerve to bowl out Australia for 254 to secure the five-match ODI series 3-1. The last game Friday will be more like preparation for the test series.
Australia needed 19 off the last over bowled by skipper Shanaka, and No. 10 batter Matthew Kuhnemann (15) hit three boundaries to get the visitors’ equation down to five runs required off the last ball to keep the series alive. But he was deceived by a slower delivery, hitting it straight up in the air for Charith Asalanka to catch in the covers.
In the end, David Warner’s 99 wasn’t quite enough to get the Australians over the line after Asalanka hit a 106-ball 110 and Dhananjaya de Silva scored 60 from 61 deliveries for Sri Lanka.
“Against such a quality attack it was a tough ask and we are glad we came through,” Asalanka said. “I walked in with us three down for not many inside 10 overs. Special credit to Dhananjaya de Silva, who took the pressure off from me with the way he batted.”
Sri Lanka had not beaten Australia in an ODI series since 2010, and hadn’t won a bilateral series at home against the Australians since 1992.
Australia won the toss and made a bold call to bowl first, a gamble which almost paid off.
“Every time we looked like getting a partnership we kept losing wickets,” said Australia skipper Aaron Finch, who was out for a four-ball duck. “They made use of the opportunities. It was a gettable total. The run rate was in control but we lost wickets and let it slip out of our hands. ”
Australia was on course for the target as Warner and Travis Head (27) added 58 runs for the fifth wicket, but lost three wickets for the addition of three runs in the space of eight deliveries.
Part-timer de Silva removed Head and Warner in his successive overs, starting when he bowled Head with the penultimate ball of the 36th.
Maheesh Theekshana (1-40) trapped Glenn Maxwell (1) in the next over from the other end before de Silva returned and had Warner smartly stumped by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella on the first ball of the 38th.
“If someone had hung around David Warner for about another five overs that could have been a match-winning partnership,” Finch said.
Warner was unlucky to be dismissed one run short of his 19th ODI hundred. The opener has not scored an international hundred for more than two years across all formats.
With the series at stake, the five-time world champions brought in the experienced Pat Cummins in place of Jhye Richardson. There was no Mitchell Starc for Australia, though. The left-arm paceman hasn’t played any game since hurting his finger earlier in the series.
There was some resistance from the lower order with Pat Cummins (35) and then Kuhnemann keeping Australia’s chances alive until the last delivery.
De Silva finished with 2-39 in his 10 overs to back up his half-century during the Sri Lankan innings. The middle-order batter hit seven fours before he was spectacularly caught by Maxwell, and he combined with Asalanka in an innings-reviving 101-run stand.
Asalanka was the hero for Sri Lanka with his first ODI hundred, joining de Silva with the total at 34-3.
The tour is all square heading into the two-match test series, with Australia winning the Twenty20 format 2-1 and Sri Lanka taking the ODI portion.