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Friday, March 09, 2012

Australia wins tournament as quick bowlers cramp Sri Lanka's style

Australia 231 (49.3 ov, Wade 49, Warner 48, Herath 3/36, Maharoof 3/40, Kulasekera 2/40) beat Sri Lanka 215 (48.5 ov, Tharanga 71, McKay 5/28, Lee 3/59, Watson 2/13) by 15 runs with 7 balls left. ODI triseries final #3 at Adelaide Oval. Australia win series 2-1.

After Australia could only, after being sent in, manage a modest 231 with the bat its recently maligned pace bowlers combined to bowl out Sri Lanka  for an even more modest 215 to win, against my expectations, the tri-series  deciding final.

David Warner 48/45b (1x6, 5x4) and a visibly unwell Matthew Wade 49/74b (3x4) got Australia going with a 75 run opening partnership but the other top order batters fell cheaply to a combination of poor shot selection, tight bowling and good 6/151 and 7/177  it looked no contest but Clint McKay with a belligerent 28/32b (1x6, 3x4)  and Brett Lee a surprisingly more measured 32/54b (2x4) took the total beyond 200 and thus offered Australia a smidgin of hope ("something to bowl at" as other cxommentators might say).

Once again Sri Lanka only used five bowlers ( to whom would they have turned if one or two of them had hit out of the attack?). Lasith Malinga  was well below his best but Rangana Herath 3/36, Farveez Maharoof 3/40, Tillekeratne Dilshan (opening bowling and batting again ) 1/41 and Nuwan Kulasekera 2/40 , kept the runs down and the wickets coming every time Australia looked to be getting on top.

Notwithstanding the Lee- McKay ninth wicket stand of 40 and allowing for some deterioration in the wicket (the same as had been used in Tuesday's second final) 231 looked inadequate.

But the Australian quicks struck back with penetration from Lee, accuiracy from Shane Watson and Dan Christian and both from Clint McKay.

Each of the Sri Lankan big (top) four looked briefly menacing but none settled in and all were out with only 53 on the board, two apiece to Lee and McKay . This time it was Lahiru Thirmanne and especially the experienced (and, to be fair, one of the big/ top five)  Upal Tharanga  who (sort of) pulled things round adding 60 for the fifth wicket before Thirimanne edged Shane Watson to Wade.

From then - 5/113 - the storyline was brief Sri Lankan revivals underpinned by Tharanga interspersed with brakes applied by McKay, Watson (generally a steady and perceptive hand as captain though he could have bowled himself more) and Dan Christian. Sri Lanka nevertheless moved beyond 200 and thus within striking range but when Thuranga fell to Watson for 71/122b (1x6,4x4) it was 8/204 and only the genuine tailenders left to support a competent looking Maharoof .

Re-enter McKay, who bowled the last two, leaving Sri Lanka 15 short, Australia victorious in match and series and McKay with the well deserved analysis of 9.5-1-28-5.

So ended the very competitive tri series (which I hope will remain on the calendar) and a long Australian summer of international cricket (made to appear longer by the gap for the Big Bash League). Australia did well to win the tri series but both India and Sri Lanka extended them at times and it wouldn't have surprised me if SL had won. Indeed the issue wasn't decided until, contrary to my early opinion, the Adelaide Oval lights had kicked in and the full moon had risen over the about to be demolished Chappell stands.

Fox Sports video highlights


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sri Lanka batting top order storms to victory to level ODI series

Sri Lanka 2 /274 (44.2 ov, Dilshan 106, Jayawardene 80, Sangakkara 51*) beat Australia 6 for 271 (50 ov,  Clarke 117, Warner 100, Malinga 3/40) by 8 wickets with 34 balls in hand: ODI final #2 at Adelaide Oval. 
Series level 1-1 with one match to play.

In ideal (mid 20s, a little cloud)  conditions in Adelaide Michael Clarke 117/91b (4x6, 5x4) and David Warner 100/140b (1x6, 4x4) added 184 for the third wicket which allowed Australia to reach a healthy looking 6/271. But then Tillekeratne Dilshan 106/119b (10x4) and Mahela Jayawardene 80/76b (1x6, 8x4) put Sri Lanka well on the way to victory with an opening partnership on 179 from 27.1 overs.

Clarke's innings was the most accomplished of the high four, the more so as it was amassed under the physical handicaps of a bad back and a dodgy hamstring. Warner, in doubt before the match, batted for the most part in relatively restrained mode: in hindsight he'd have done better to give more elbow room to the middle order hitters.

Australia bowled untidily- the influence of the bowling coach was hard to discern - especially in the first three overs from which 30 runs (many of them extras) were taken and a catch behind disallowed because the bowler had overstepped the line.

While the fielding was better than Sri Lanka's (who spilled several catches) it couldn't compensate for some wayward length and direction and, above all, a lot of daring (and some fortunate) strokeplay.

So a third final is necessary to decide the tournament. Sri Lanka will start favourite, especially as Clarke is likely to miss the match (and perhaps others). Australia's bowlers could learn a thing or two from Lasith Malinga 10-1-40-3, who bowled a great spell at the death, and Dilshan, who opened the bowling as well as the batting.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Australia almost snatch defeat from jaws of victory: ODI final #1

Australia 6/321 (50ov, Warner 163, Wade 64) beat Sri Lanka 306 (49.2 ov, Kulasekara 73, Tharanga 60, D Hussey 4/43, Watson 3/33, Lee 3/59) by 15 runs: ODI triseries final #1 at the Gabba. Australia lead best of three series 1-0.

Rarely can one side,  after dominating most of a 50 overs match, have only scraped home in the face of a bold lower order revival from their opponents. Yet this is what happened at the Gabba on a day when, with rain threatening and briefly stopping play,  Australia posted what looked to be a comfortable 6/321, then had Sri Lanka, 6/144 from 30.1 overs, only for them to recover to the verge of an unlikely win.

David Warner 163/157b (2x6, 13x4), his highest score in his 19 ODI career, was the standout, and decisive, innings of the match. It was overdue, though not really unexpected, unlike Nuwan Kulasekara's 73/43b (3x6, 7x4), by far his highest score in his112 ODIs. Whereas Warner batted right through the innings - he was dismissed off its last ball - and made half his team's total, Matthew Wade's 64/72b (1x6, 4x4) being the only other substantial score,   Kulasekara seemed to be for much of his knock batting in a lost, not just losing, cause. He came in at 5/125 and left 93 balls later at 7/248, whenat which point  it looked as if Sri Lanka were going down, albeit with all remaining guns blazing.

So it proved, but not after a few more tense moments as Dhammika Prasad, another with no reputation as a hitter (or batter), biffed his highest ODI score 31*/21b (1x6, 2x4) and Upul Tharanga 60/67b (3x4) bestirred himself. They and the rest of the team kept the game alive until almost the last over, from which an improbable 16 were required with the last pair at the crease.

Australia were the better side and deserved to win, but they should have bowled more tightly, especially when they had Sri Lanka at their mercy. Even their best bowler David Hussey's 8-0-43-4 included two Kulasekera sixes off consecutive balls (though he did get him off the next one).

So now to Adelaide for what should be another tighly contested match.There'll be several players on both sides keen to restore their reptations.


Saturday, March 03, 2012

Sri Lanka just keep Australia at bay: win match and place in tri series finals:

Sri Lanka 238 (50ov, Chandimal 75, Sangakkara 64, Thirimanne 51, Christain 5/31, Pattinson 4/51) def Australia 229 (49.1 ov,D Hussey 74, Watson 65, Malinga 4/49) by 9 runs. ODI 12/12 at MCG. 
Sri Lanka 8 matches/19pts, Australia 8/19, India 8/15. Sri Lanka and Australia to contest best of three finals.

Another fascinating ODI to complete the minor round of what has been a most interesting and even series. Dinesh Chandimal 75/84b (2x6, 3x4) and Kumar Sangakkara 64/93b (3x4) regrouped after Sri Lanka lost two early wickets  and, with Lahiru Thirimanne chipping in 51/59b (2x4), appeared to be in a position to launch a final slog. But Dan Christian (9-0-31-5 inc hat trick) pegged them back to a relatively modest yet competitive 238.

In reply Australia lost 3/26 before acting captain Shane Watson 65/83b (5x4) supported by the Hussey brothers kept the match alive. The Sri Lankan bowlers covered for the injury to Thisara Perera and kept plugging (Lasith Malinga blasting) away. There was no collapse but wickets fell regularly enough to increase the pressure on David Hussey who, with 10 needed from the last over, was caught in the deep off its first ball for a high quality 74/74b (1x6,4x4). [Should he have played Tests?]

So Sri Lanka, whose supporters at the MCG seemed vastly to outnumber Australia's, have secured a place in the finals and India, despite some good performances (in the shorter form matches that is), must go home.

Michael Clarke is expected to be back for the first final in Brisbane, so Australia, despite having lost their last three matches against Sri Lanka in this series, will expect to win, especially as they are playing at home - if not in front of a home crowd.