Dasun Shanaka leads Sri Lanka to dramatic four-wicket win over Australia

Australia appeared to be heading for a comfortable win before the scrapping of the Sri Lankan skipper stunned Aaron Finch’s men.

Sri Lanka stunned Australia in their third and final T20 international after skipper Dasun Shanaka went through an unbeaten half-century to lead his team home in a heart-pounding finish on Sunday morning’s AEST.

The hosts went after a goal of 177 to end the series on a high after crashing miserably against the visitors in the first two games.

Shanaka scored an unbeaten 54 off 25 balls with five fours and four sixes to seal a four-wicket victory.

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Shanaka and tailender Chamika Karunaratne split a 69-run tie for the seventh wicket after struggling at 6/108 in the 15th over.

Sri Lanka needed 59 of the last three overs, with the pair facing lead bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson.

The skipper needed 19 from the final bowled by Kane Richardson and hit two fours and a mighty six to tie the scores with one ball left. Richardson then walked to hand the win to the home side.

Openers Danushka Gunathilaka and Pathum Nissanka got off to a promising start in response to Australia’s 5/176.

Gunathilaka scored a 12-ball 15 before Charith Asalanka joined Nissanka, with the pair setting up 42 for the second wicket.

Asalanka scored 26 out of 19 before being caught by Aaron Finch bowling Marcus Stoinis.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (17), Kusal Mendis (six) and Wanindu Hasaranga (eight) couldn’t speed up the score before Shanaka and Karunaratne took on the challenge.

“I took a few balls to get into it. I read the wicket correctly, so I didn’t throw my wicket away. The process is always important,” Shanaka said after his performance as player of the match.

“They took the brave decision to hit first, it wasn’t the best idea to hit first in these circumstances. We should use this momentum in the ODI series to move forward. †

Finch called Shanaka’s innings “an incredible blow” but radiated confidence in his team for the next five one-day internationals.

“We’re really comfortable with the depth of our squad,” said Finch, who was named Player of the Series.

Previously, Australia won the toss and chose to bat with opening pair David Warner and Finch who played formidable strokes before Steven Smith and Stoinis led their team to 5/176.

Warner and Finch enjoyed an opening score of 43 runs.

Finch scored 29 from 20 balls before spinner Maheesh Theekshana removed his stump when the Australian skipper attempted a slog sweep.

Allrounder Glen Maxwell opened his innings on the next ball with a huge six. Maxwell crushed Hasaranga for another six in the seventh over, but fell for 16 from nine after attempting to hit the spinner in the ninth over the elongated boundary where Gunathilaka took the catch.

Theekshana had Warner leg before wicket for 39 from 33 balls in the next over after the hosts judged a no-out decision.

The visitors in the lineup stuttered after Josh Inglis, who replaced an injured Mitchell Marsh for the game, ran the next ball for a golden duck.

Stoinis then hit three fours and a six in his 23-ball innings of 38 before being stunned by Mendis off Praveen Jayawickrama.

Smith didn’t stay out for 37 off 27 balls with two fours and two sixs, with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade contributing 13.

Sri Lankan speedster Dushmantha Chameera was the most expensive bowler, conceding 46 runs in his four overs.

Theekshana took 2/25, while Hasaranga and Jayawickrama claimed one each. On Tuesday, the hosts will face the visitors in the first ODI in Pallekele.

– AFP

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