LIVE: Australia have been given a tricky but manageable chase target of 259 to keep their five-match ODI run alive after a sensational first century by Charith Asalanka (110 out of 106) led Sri Lanka to a total of 258 runs, all with an over to save.
After taking on his team 4/135, Asalanka survived a close call in just one run when Pat Cummins clipped his leg stump to leave the stirrups unmoved.
The 24-year-old – who turns 25 in three days – pinched his crotch mid-innings, saw three wickets fall at the other end, and was forced to contain his usually free-swinging disposition, but delivered a masterclass of patience and composure to post the highest score ever by a Sri Lanka No.5 against Australia.
However, Australia fought back to the death, claiming three cheap wickets in the 48th and 49th overs to end Sri Lanka’s innings early – and far short of a total that could have easily crossed 270 or 280.
Australia trailed 2-1 after three games of the ODI series and must overcome Sri Lanka’s spin-heavy bowling lineup to claim victory on a dewy and tricky pitch in Colombo.
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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 COLLECTION REPORT
Desperate to come back from a crushing six-wicket defeat to a record-breaking Sri Lanka in the third ODI, Australia won the toss and chose to field first, having struggled to bowl in dewy conditions last time.
Despite the Australian part-time spinners’ failure to impress in the previous match at the same pitch in Colombo, the selectors decided not to include spinner Mitchell Swepson, but instead only reintroduced Pat Cummins for Jhye Richardson.
Australia got off to a dream start in the field, claiming a trio of wickets in the first 10 overs – with three different bowlers claiming a wicket in their first over.
First, Glenn Maxwell left Niroshan Dickwella (1) stumped in the second of the match. In the seventh over, Pat Cummins came on the attack and threw the dangerous Kusal Mendis off a thick inside rim, leaving Sri Lanka 2-26.
Shortly afterwards, Mitch Marsh left the impressive Pathum Nissanka – who scored a century in the third ODI – trailing just 13 after gifted gloveman Alex Carey had a simple catch.
After 10 overs, Sri Lanka was 3-35. But Dhananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka kept the ship steady and soon had Australia on the trailing foot, with visitors leaking boundaries. However, Asalanka was lucky not to be fired for a single point, as he watched Pat Cummins cut his leg stump, only to avoid dropping bail – the second time in the first 11 overs to occur, after a Kuhnemann ball had previously deflected into the wickets .
Dhananjaya and Asalanka achieved a partnership of 100 runs in as many balls, before Mitch Marsh stopped their momentum with a crucial second wicket from Dhananjaya (60 out of 61) thanks to an excellent catch from Glenn Maxwell.
Charith Asalanka passed the 50, before knocking 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 caught deep spinner Matthew Kuhnemann at 19 of 35, trying to up the pace of the innings, with Sri Lanka 6-207 in the 41st left. Kuhnemann soon scored a double when he had Chamika Karunaratne LBW (7) on hand, with gloveman Alex Carey convincing his captain Aaron Finch to turn to DRS.
Asalanka spent his first 100 on just 99 balls, before falling to 110 from 106 in the 48th over. He was clearly tired from his efforts in the cramped conditions and was long held up by Aaron Finch from a slower Cummins ball.
Jeffrey Vandersay was knocked out (0 out 2) by Cummins in the deep end after a poor run between the wickets, before Sri Lanka’s last batter Maheesh Theekshana made a stunningly bad decision trying to make a run on the final ball of the 49th over . Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka’s superstar all-rounder, had returned from injury and shot 21* from 20, crouching down waiting for Theekshana to block the last ball from the over, allowing Hasaranga to strike for the last over of the innings.
Theekshana foolishly tried to make a run and was eliminated by substitute Mitchell Swepson to end the innings one over prematurely.
Pat Cummins finished with 2/37 from his nine overs to go with a runout, while Mitch Marsh had 2/29 from seven overs. Matthew Kuhnemann had 2/56 from eight overs. Josh Hazlewood bowled better than his 10/45 numbers suggested.
SAMPLE AND TEAM NEWS
The hosts led the series 2-1 after comfortably chasing Australia’s 291 in a dominant performance, taking back-to-back ODI wins over Australia for the first time since 2013.
Now Sri Lanka is looking at a win that would seal a first bilateral ODI series win over Australia at home since 1992.
Pat Cummins replaced Jhye Richardson in the lone substitution of the last game. That meant there was again no room for spinner Mitchell Swepson, despite Australia’s decision to pick only the inexperienced Matthew Kuhnemann (0/61 from 10 overs), who failed spectacularly last time.
“We’ve had quite a few injuries on the tour,” said Finch, adding that the team “will need to get comfortable using a large number 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 slipping on the bat in the evening.
In response, Australia chose to bowl first after winning the toss. “We need to be able to hunt better under these conditions,” said Aaron Finch, who declared it a priority in the team’s long-term development ahead of next year’s World Cup.
For Sri Lanka, superstar Wanindu Hasaranga returned from a groin injury after missing the last two games. He replaced the injured speedy Dushmantha Chameera (ankle) as the only change in Sri Lanka’s XI, leaving the hosts NOT a frontline pace bowler and a full four spinners.
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