LIVE: Australia has been set a tricky but manageable chase target of 259 to keep their five-match ODI series alive after a sensational maiden century from Charith Asalanka (110 off 106) guided Sri Lanka to a total of 258 runs, all-out with an over to spare.
Having entered the fray with his team 4/135, Asalanka survived a close call while on just one run when Pat Cummins clipped his leg stump only for the bails to remain unmoved.
The 24-year-old – who turns 25 in three days – tweaked his groin mid-innings, saw three wickets fall at the other end, and was forced to rein in his usually free-swinging nature, but delivered a masterclass of patience and composure to post the highest-ever score by a Sri Lanka No.5 against Australia.
However, Australia fought back at the death, claiming three cheap wickets in the 48th and 49th overs to end Sri Lanka’s innings prematurely – and well short of a total that could easily have surpassed 270 or 280.
Down 2-1 after three games of the ODI series, Australia must overcome Sri Lanka’s spin-heavy bowling line-up to claim victory on a dewy and tricky Colombo pitch.
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MATCH CENTRE: Full teams, stats, play-by-play, and scorecard
Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey (wk), Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green, Pat Cummins, Matthew Kuhnemann, Josh Hazlewood
Sri Lanka XI: Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya De Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage, Jeffrey Vandersay, Maheesh Theekshana
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FIRST INNINGS REPORT
Desperate to bounce back from a crushing six-wicket defeat to a record-breaking Sri Lanka in the third ODI, Australia won the toss and opted to field first, having struggled to bowl in dewy conditions last time out.
Despite the failure of Australia’s part-time spinners to make an impact in the previous match on the same Colombo pitch, selectors decided not to include spinner Mitchell Swepson, instead reintroducing only Pat Cummins for Jhye Richardson.
Australia got off to a dream start in the field, claiming a trio of wickets in the opening 10 overs – with three different bowlers claiming a wicket in their first over.
First, Glenn Maxwell had Niroshan Dickwella (1) stumped in just the second over of the match. Then in the seventh over, Pat Cummins entered the attack and bowled the dangerous Kusal Mendis off a thick inside-edge, leaving Sri Lanka 2-26.
Soon afterwards, Mitch Marsh had the impressive Pathum Nissanka – who scored a century in the third ODI – caught behind for just 13 after an outside edge gifted gloveman Alex Carey a simple catch.
After 10 overs, Sri Lanka were 3-35. But Dhananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka steadied the ship and soon had Australia on the back foot, with the visitors leaking boundaries. However, Asalanka was lucky not to be dismissed for a single run, having seen Pat Cummins clip his leg stump only for the bail not to fall – the second time in the first 11 overs that occured, after a Kuhnemann ball earlier deflected into the wickets.
Dhananjaya and Asalanka notched a 100-run partnership in as many balls, before Mitch Marsh halted their momentum with a crucial second wicket of Dhananjaya (60 off 61) thanks to a superb Glenn Maxwell catch.
Charith Asalanka passed 50, before running out captain Shanaka (4) the next ball, leaving Sri Lanka 5-150 with just over 20 overs to play. Asalanka then added a 50-run partnership with 19-year-old Dunith Wellalage as Sri Lanka crossed the 200-run mark with 10 overs to play.
Wellalage was caught in the deep off spinner Matthew Kuhnemann on 19 off 35, trying to increase the pace of the innings, with Sri Lanka 6-207 in the 41st over. Kuhnemann soon bagged a double when he had Chamika Karunaratne LBW (7) upon review, with gloveman Alex Carey convincing his captain Aaron Finch to turn to DRS.
Asalanka brought up his maiden 100 off just 99 balls, before falling for 110 off 106 in the 48th over. He was obviously weary from his efforts in the oppressive conditions, and was caught at long on by Aaron Finch off a Cummins slower ball.
Jeffrey Vandersay was run out (0 off 2) by Cummins in the deep after a poor piece of running between the wickets, before Sri Lanka’s final batter Maheesh Theekshana made a stunningly poor decision to attempt a run on the final ball of the 49th over. Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka’s superstar all-rounder, had returned from injury and blasted 21* off 20, and was down on his haunches waiting for Theekshana to block out the final ball of the over so Hasaranga could take strike for the final over of the innings.
Theekshana foolishly attempted a run, and was run out by substitute Mitchell Swepson, ending the innings one over premature.
Pat Cummins finished with 2/37 off his nine overs to go with a run out, while Mitch Marsh had 2/29 off seven overs. Matthew Kuhnemann had 2/56 off eight overs. Josh Hazlewood bowled better than his figures of 10/45 suggested.
PREVIEW AND TEAM NEWS
The hosts lead the series 2-1 after a dominant performance saw them chase down Australia’s 291 comfortably, securing back-to-back ODI wins for the first time over Australia since 2013.
Now, Sri Lanka are eyeing a victory that would seal a first bilateral ODI series win over Australia at home since 1992.
Pat Cummins replaced Jhye Richardson in the only change from the last match. That meant there was once again no room for spinner Mitchell Swepson, despite Australia’s decision to pick only the inexperienced Matthew Kuhnemann (0/61 from 10 overs) backfiring spectacularly last time out.
“We’ve had quite a few injuries through the tour,” Finch said, adding the team “is going to have to be” comfortable using a host of all-rounders.
Dew on the pitch played a key role in aiding Sri Lanka’s chase in the third ODI, with a wetter ball spinning less and skidding onto the bat in the evening.
In reply, Australia opted to bowl first after winning the toss. “We’ve got to get better chasing in these conditions,” Aaron Finch said, declaring it a priority in the team’s long-term development ahead of next year’s World Cup.
For Sri Lanka, superstar Wanindu Hasaranga made a return from a groin injury, having missed the past two matches. He replaced injured quick Dushmantha Chameera (ankle) as the only change to Sri Lanka’s XI, leaving the hosts with NO frontline pace bowler and a full four spinners.
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