Sri Lanka secured their spot in the Commonwealth Bank series final after defeating Australia by nine runs in a gripping final over finale at Melbourne.
Sri Lanka, who needed to win the match in order stave off elimination, dug deep and produced a stunning display of an all round team performance as they triumphed over Australia for the third time in the series, to top the points table and dump India out of the tournament.
Sri Lankan Captain, Mahela Jayawardene, was on cloud nine and could not contain his excitement, letting out an almighty roar, when the last Australian wicket fell to give Sri Lanka the win. “The boys showed character [to bounce back after the defeat to India]…we lifted our game” he said.
Jayawardene, who won the toss, decided to bat first on a pitch that looked to be a batsman’s dream. However, the pitch seemed to be a nightmare for Sri Lanka’s batsmen as openers Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan were both dismissed early into the innings.
However, wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkarra and in form batsman, Dinesh Chandimal, steadied the innings and put the momentum back in Sri Lanka’s favour as they put together a classy and sensibly played partnership of 123 runs.
But, once Sangakkarra, who scored 64, and Chandimal, 75, were out, the Sri Lankan batting lineup collapsed under the intense pressure of the Australian bowlers. The only exception was Lahiru Thirimanne who stayed out in the middle as long as possible, watching partner after partner being removed, en route to his hard fought 51.
Sri Lanka, who were looking promising of making an extremely competitive total in the middle of their innings, were reduced to 238 all out.
Australia’s Daniel Christian stunned everybody with his five wickets, which included a brilliant hat-trick. He was well supported with four wickets from James Pattinson, who hadn’t played for Australia, since the test series against India in December 2011.
Facing a relatively straightforward target of 239, the Australians started in the same fashion the Sri Lankans did, losing both openers, David Warner and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade early.
However, temporary Captain, Shane Watson buckled down and fought hard to earn his 65 runs, during which he and Michael Hussey built a highly useful partnership of 87 runs.
Australia, upon losing both Hussey and Watson, looked in dire trouble as the Sri Lankan bowlers kept striking and knocking over the middle order batsmen. David Hussey on the other hand, stood his ground and played the bowling attack smartly, taking singles and dispatching poor deliveries to the boundary.
David Hussey and Pattinson fought hard to dig Australia out of the hole they had dug themselves in with a much-needed 27 run partnership.
Soon enough Pattinson was dismissed and Clint Mckay went cheaply as well, leaving Xavier Doherty and Hussey left to rebuild and try to see Australia home. Even with their amazing 39 run partnership, it just wasn’t enough, as Doherty was cleaned up, leaving Australia with 10 runs needed for victory off the last over.
It was the first ball of the final over where tragedy struck, as David Hussey holed out to long off, attempting to smash the ball out of the park. The Sri Lankans were delighted, while Hussey, who was in total despair, pondered if he should have done tried a safer option.
Lasith Malinga, who has not been in prime form, throughout this series, led the charge with four wickets and was continually backed up by the rest of the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Captain Watson, was disappointed with the loss, even though Australia already booked their place in the finals prior to this match, was still pleased to have a nail-biting game of cricket. “A brilliant game of cricket … you never knew who was going to win. Dave Hussey batted beautifully, as he’s shown through the summer so far” he said.
Captain Jayawardene was amazed by the support of the crowd and said: “Fantastic support, it’s like playing in Sri Lanka…I’m sure the crowd will follow us now.”
The two teams will now be looking to draw first blood as they square off in the first final of the series, which will be played at Brisbane on the 4th of March.