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Friday, February 29, 2008

Sri Lanka keep their best against Australia until last: CB Series #12

Sri Lanka 221 [50 0vers] (T Dilshan 62, M Jayawardene 50, N Bracken 4/29) defeated Australia 208 [48.1 overs]A Gilchrist 83, M Amerasinghe 3/44)) by 13 runs at MCG: CB Series #12

Sri Lanka won a cracker of a match at the MCG tonight by 13 runs despite posting a low total when they batted first. For much of the time they looked to be struggling but at most of their crisis points someone stepped forward to haul the team forward.

Wickets fell at regular intervals, 1/12, 2/32, 3/42, 4/61 before captain Jayawadrene and Tillakeratne Dilshan ensured the game would go into the evening session by adding 64 in 73 balls. Yet 5/125 from 32 overs and the unprepossessing modest Lankan tail to come hardly suggested a matchwinning score, even though the wicket was not one on which runs could be scored easily. Nathan Bracken, with his customary and effective changes of pace and Brad Hogg, bowled particularly well on it. Dilshan was run out for 62/70b at 185, then Chamara Silva took the score beyond 200 before the last wicket fell off the last ball of the innings.

Despite the condition of the wicket, I didn't think that 221 was enough, and Adam Gilchrist's astonishingly (well, perhaps not by his standards) brutal innings confirmed this. His opening partnership with James Hopes put on 107 in 88b before Hopes was bowled by Muttiah Muraliduran by a ball which just clipped off stump (and the bail seemed to take a long time to fall). Fortunately umpire Harper accepted the Sri Lankans's (relatively mild by the standards of this season) entreaties and called for the third umpire's assistance.

Back to Gilchrist. Murali might have had him lbw once but that apart he looked unstoppable and the match unloseable. Even when he was, a tad surprisingly, dismissed for
83 in only 50 balls (11x4, 2x6) Australia looked to be winning in a gallop. This changed to a canter, then a plod as numbers three to seven contributed a total of 13 runs to the score against some tight bowling from Nuwan Kulasekera and Ishara Amerasinghe. Three wickets (Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds!) fell at 115, and when Brad Haddin was sixth out at 123 Sri Lanka looked, if not on top, then within striking distance of being so.

Mike Hussey was still there, and there were plenty of overs in hand, so all hope of an Australian win hadn't gone. Mr Cricket went at 142 for a modest 5/25b but Brett Lee played in character with an intelligent mixture of defence, aggression and astute running between the wickets. But when Jayawardene at second or thereabouts slip brilliantly caught Mitchell Johnson off Amerasinghe it was 9/173.

Lee and Bracken needed 49 from 65 balls, and they set out in measured pursuit, which was all they needed to do. They grew in confidence, but the Sri Lankans pegged them back. The asking rate rose above a run a ball, Lee edged (he'd probably say guided) a four to bring the equation back to level terms, and Jayawardene miscalculated (he'd probably say calculated) the available bowlers. He chose Sanath Jayasuriya to bowl the 49th over, his first of the innings and his last in Australia. The first delivery was speared in from round the wicket towards Lee, who swung cross battedly at it, only to see it keep low and crash into the stumps.

A well deserved win for Sri Lanka, who kept their collective nerve in the face of a series of Australian challenges. A pity that they saved their best form against Australia until the end of what has been a long and in many, but not all, respects disappointing test and ODI series here this season.


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