Australia Takes ODI Series

September 01, 2016

Who needs a world-record ODI total? There was plenty of breathless action in Dambulla without one. Aaron Finch smashed the equal fastest ODI fifty by an Australian. John Hastings took six wickets. Angelo Mathews limped off with a calf injury while batting. Dhananjaya de Silva entertained with a breezy 76. And Sachith Pathirana was briefly unplayable, collecting three wickets in five balls early in Australia's chase.

It all made George Bailey's unbeaten 90 off 85 seem tame by comparison, although he initially joined the party by scoring his first 20 off five balls. But in the end, Bailey's cool head - not to mention Travis Head, too - ensured an Australian victory in the series. Chasing 213, Australia raced to their goal within 31 overs, the six-wicket win meaning they would go to Pallekele for the fifth and final match with an unassailable 3-1 lead.

The contrast between the two innings of this match was stunning. After 10 overs, Sri Lanka were 32 for 3. After 10 overs, Australia were 109 for 3. Same number of wickets, but they were about as neck-and-neck as an emu and a hummingbird. Sri Lanka laboured on and eked out 212 from their allotted overs - the final wicket fell from the last ball of the 50th over. Their total would have been good for a T20, and Finch batted like he thought it was one.

One of the most remarkable things about Australia's innings was that it started with a maiden, as Thisara Perera tested David Warner. But next over Finch launched 17 runs off Amila Aponso, including four fours, and he added a further 18 off Thisara in the over after that, including one huge straight six. It led to the ridiculous situation of Australia having 35 for 0, and Finch having all 35 runs. Warner was still on 0 from six balls.

Warner got in on the action with a couple of boundaries of his own, but had no chance of keeping pace with Finch, who used the field restrictions to make a mockery of Sri Lanka's attack. He got to 49 from 15 balls and thus had the perfect chance to equal AB de Villiers' record of the fastest ODI fifty, from 16 deliveries, but Finch missed the next one, then found a fielder, and had to settle for an 18-ball half-century, equalling the Australian record shared by Simon O'Donnell and Glenn Maxwell.

Finch brought up the milestone with a fearsome six swept off Pathirana, but next ball was adjudged lbw trying another sweep; he asked for a review, and Hawkeye showed the ball just kissing the outside of leg stump. Finch was gone for 55 off 19. Usman Khawaja, dropped from the Test side earlier on this tour and now playing his first ODI of the trip, walked out and was lbw to Pathirana for a second-ball duck. Hawkeye showed the ball missing leg, but Finch had used the review.

Next came Bailey, who punched two off Pathirana's last ball and then plundered three fours and a six off the next over from Dilruwan Perera, sweeping and reverse sweeping with ease. But as soon as Pathirana had the ball again in the next over, he had Warner deceived in flight and bowled for 19 off 16. Australia were flying, but were they be about to crash back down to earth? Pathirana's next few overs were key, and while he beat the bat several times, there were no more wickets.

There should have been - Dilruwan bowled Head for 13 off a no-ball - but Bailey eased his tempo, Head assisted, and their 100-run partnership put Australia on the brink of victory. Dilruwan eventually did remove Head, lbw for 40, but by then it was too late. Australia needed only 16 more runs and got them with ease, the winning strike a Matthew Wade six over long-on off the bowling of Dilruwan. Home with 114 balls to spare.

Australia's batting completely overshadowed the earlier achievement of Hastings, who used the slowish surface to his advantage and collected 6 for 45. In 45 years of ODI history, he was just the seventh Australian to claim at least six wickets in an innings, after Gary Gilmour, Ken MacLeay, Glenn McGrath, Andy Bichel, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, who has done so twice. Here, Starc had to settle for one wicket - in the first over, as usual.

Starc trapped 18-year-old debutant Avishka Fernando lbw with a quick inswinger with the fourth ball of the game, and Sri Lanka's start went from bad to worse when their two best batsmen of the series to date - Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal - fell cheaply. Mendis was caught behind on review off Hastings for 1 and Chandimal was caught behind for 5, beaten by a little extra bounce from Scott Boland.

Despite the wickets, de Silva remained keen to entertain, driving and flicking off his pads, and dominating the Sri Lankan scorecard. At the other end, Mathews was battling along slowly having been struck on the helmet by a Boland bouncer. But on 28, Mathews was forced to retire hurt, hobbling off after injuring his right calf while taking off for a run. Not only did it hurt Sri Lanka's batting, but he was one of only two seamers in their attack, and could not bowl.

De Silva moved to his half-century from 62 deliveries but fell when he pulled Hastings to midwicket. He had taken risks throughout his innings and finally one had not paid off, but Sri Lanka could still be pleased that they had found an opener after the retirement of Tillakaratne Dilshan.

The rest of the innings rather petered out. Angelo Perera and Kusal Perera gave their wickets up limply to the spin of Adam Zampa and Head respectively, and although a few lower-order contributions pushed Sri Lanka above 200, Hastings finished off the remaining four wickets. The last of them was Mathews, who had limped back to the crease at the fall of the eighth wicket in an effort to pinch a few more boundaries.

Mathews was out for 40, skying the last ball of the innings, a Hastings cross-seamer. He had added 12 since retiring hurt, and it was tempting to wonder if those 12 runs might be the difference in the match. As it turned out, Finch negated them with the first three balls of his innings. From then on, the match was in Australia's grasp.


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