Feroz Khan/Zeenews Sports Bureau
Brisbane: A remarkable fight back from the Sri Lankan lower order threatened to pull off a thrilling victory at Brisbane but Australian team clinched the first final at Brisbane on Sunday.
Chasing Australian target of 322 runs, Sri Lanka fell 15 runs short of the target despite Nuwan Kulasekara’s late heroics.
Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson were taken to the cleaners as the match seemed to slip out of their hands courtesy Kulasekara’s brave knock of 73 runs that included seven fours and three sixes. His whirlwind knock came to an end as Clarke’s go-to man, David Hussey struck again to remove the danger.
Before him, Sri Lankan innings was in a sorry state as their batsmen kept throwing their wickets away compelled, perhaps due to the surging required run rate. They had lost six of their batsmen at the score of 144 before Kulasekara and Upul Tharanga (60) joined hands to forge a century partnership that pushed Australian team on the backfoot and raised hopes of a fightback.
Earlier, Brett Lee and David Hussey wiped out the top Sri Lankan batting order sharing seven wickets between them. None of their batsmen barring Kumar Sangakkara mustered a resistance of any sort as David Hussey’s golden arm kept Clarke amused by plucking wickets whenever summoned.
Positive start and Lee's exploits
Sri Lankan innings got off to a flying start as they needed to score at over six runs per over. They cruised to 39 runs within five overs before Brett Lee made the first breakthrough for Australia removing Mahela Jayawardene. Lee struck again in his next over as he clean bowled dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan even as he tried driving him missing the ball completely. The threat of rain looming large with an enormous total to be chased, Sri Lankan innings now was in the hands of Kumar Sangakkara and in-form batsman Dinesh Chandimal.
Chandimal began in style striking three consecutive boundaries off James Pattinson but Xavier Doherty and Shane Watson slowed down their innings afterwards.
David Hussey was introduced in to the attack and immediately got skipper Clarke the precious wicket of Dinesh Chandimal. Hussey tossed one up and Chandimal, on 14, attempted a cut but found James Pattinson who completed an easy catch at point.
The pressure of scoring at high run rate got the better of Kumar Sangakkara (42) as he was caught after trying to loft one over mid off, as Lee pocketed his third wicket of the night.
The next two also went into the accounts of David Hussey as Australia were looking certain for a victory in the first final.
However, Nuwan Kulasekara’s whirlwind knock of 73 runs threatened to change the complexion of the match as he took on the Australian bowling head-on.
Warner proves a point
The Australian team must have burnt their midnight oil to decide who should be removed from the final playing XI to make room for captain Michael Clarke. The choice was between David Warner and Peter Forrest. Warner had an ordinary series with a solitary fifty to his name before the final match while Forrest on the other hand had collected two fifties and a century in his debut series. The management went with Warner leaving Forrest out from the final squad.
Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and elected to bat first, meaning David Warner and Matthew Wade had the responsibility to provide a strong start to their innings. Pressure was on both the batsmen for reasons of their own and they shrugged off any nervousness to produce the best opening stand for Australia in the series so far.
After the end of first five overs, it was clear that the openers were scoring freely as the run rate of eight per over clearly suggested. Australia cruised to 50 runs within seven overs and were going strong before a light drizzle interrupted the proceedings. Tillakaratne Dilshan did pull things back for Sri Lanka with a tight spell of four overs leaking only 15 runs.
Both the openers completed their fifties and drove the Australian team to 136 runs before Rangana Herath took a one-handed blinder at long-on to end Matthew Wade’s innings at 64.
Warner continued unperturbed reaching his maiden ODI ton with an edge to the boundary. Punching the air, Warner must have had a sigh of relief considering the pressure he was carrying for the faith his captain must have placed on him when preferring him over in-form Peter Forrest. He didn’t stop till the last ball of the innings stretching his score to 163—the highest on this ground—removing any doubt over his form.
Warner showed maturity by not trying to throw his bat over everything and instead staying put on the crease, hitting only loose deliveries. In total he collected 13 boundaries and two sixes driving the score to 321 runs before getting bowled off the last delivery from Dhammika Prasad. Fifty percent of his runs came off singles (56) and doubles (2X17) unlike his blitz against India earlier this year at Perth Test.
It was largely due to his and Wade’s effort at the top that Australia managed to cross 300 runs even as others failed to affect the innings significantly. Shane Watson (21) was removed by Farveez Maharoof while Daniel Christian promoted ahead of Clarke and David Hussey had a brief stay on the crease.
Michael Clarke came in at No. 6 and chipped in with a brisk knock of 37 runs before being well caught by his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene at midwicket off Lasith Malinga’s bowling. His wicket brought Michael Hussey to the middle who then hit two sixes of the last two overs as Australia posted a huge total in excess of 300 runs for Sri Lanka to chase in the final.
Malinga had another forgetful match as his eight overs were creamed for 74 runs. Barring Dilshan and Herath, each Lankan bowler was milked for runs with Dhammika Prasad being the most successful among the lots with 2/51.
The focus now shifts to Adelaide where the teams will again lock horns in the second final.