Pallekele: Five things we learned from Australia`s 4-1 series victory over Sri Lanka after the visitors won the fifth and final one-day international (ODI) in Pallekele.
David Warner wasn`t happy with the state of Sri Lanka`s pitches but he ended on a high with a fluent century in the final game. The stand-in captain`s 106 in Pallekele and George Bailey`s unbeaten 90 in Dambulla helped the visitors register thumping wins in the last two ODIs. The big scores came despite Warner`s earlier complaint that he found it "hard to gain momentum" on Sri Lanka`s sluggish wickets. "It`s a little bit disappointing from our point of view because it`s not the way we like to play," he said, after the series-clinching win in Dambulla. "We like to play an aggressive brand of cricket. We like to entertain the crowd." After registering his seventh ODI hundred, Warner said he felt "relieved". Small wonder, after scratchy scores of eight, one, 10 and 19 in the preceding games.
A young Sri Lankan side failed to replicate their Test success in the ODI series, faltering against top-ranked Australia time and again. Sri Lanka`s spin force was not as effective on helpful home tracks in the absence of Test hero Rangana Herath, who retired from limited-overs cricket after the team`s World Twenty20 exit. As for the batting, they relied heavily on Dinesh Chandimal to register respectacle scores. But Sri Lanka`s up-and-comers will have learned from their experiences against the reigning ODI world champions.
Australia ceded their number one Test ranking after last month`s humiliating 3-0 defeat, but they made sure of retaining their ODI crown as they went from strength to strength to clinch the series 4-1. Skipper Steve Smith was rested after the second ODI, but his stand-in, Warner, proved an able replacement. To rub salt into the wound, the Aussies even denied retiring batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan a winning farewell in the third match.
Without Chandimal`s contributions with the bat, Sri Lanka`s scorecards would have been scant indeed. Chandimal`s knocks of 80 not out, 48 and 102 in the first three matches ensured Sri Lanka at least put up a fight against the Aussies. The wicketkeeper-batsman, who was given the added responsibility of leading the side in the final ODI after Angelo Mathews was injured, accumulated 236 runs in the series. Chandimal`s failure to get going in the final two matches meant Australia were able to register thumping wins in Dambulla and Pallekele.
Former Twenty20 skipper George Bailey was Australia`s batting mainstay in all five games. With some invaluable knocks, Bailey helped Australia through some tense run-chases on the slow Sri Lankan wickets. His unbeaten 90 during the series clincher in Dambulla stood out, but even his small contributions proved vital. He notched up 270 runs in total to earn the man of the series award. "He`s been innovative, he`s been a backbone and (a) rock in the middle," Warner said of the 33-year-old. All-rounders James Faulkner and John Hastings were also a point of difference for Australia, bowling superbly at pace despite the slow pitches that saw Sri Lankan spinners dominate during the Tests.