A fighting maiden ODI century by Charith Asalanka followed by an impressive bowling effort led Sri Lanka to a thrilling four-run win over Australia in the fourth ODI and helped them take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series at R Premadasa Stadium, here on Tuesday.
Riding on Asalanka’s century (110 off 106) Sri Lanka posted a total of 258 all out in 49 overs. On a deck that was assisting the spinners, the hosts then threw 43 overs of spin at Australia and emerged victorious despite some late hiccups in a last-ball thriller.
The spinners picked seven of the 10 Australian wickets on the day. It was Sri Lanka’s first ODI series win over Australia in 30 years.
Chasing a challenging target, David Warner sealed up one end but he lost many partners. Aaron Finch, his opening partner, fell early on, and he was swiftly followed back into the dugout by Mitchell Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne and Alex Carey.
Marsh (26), Labuschagne (14), and Carey (19) got off to decent starts but failed to convert them and got out at regular intervals. Warner, however, proved to be the biggest thorn for Sri Lanka and kept the scoreboard ticking, and brought up a brilliant half-century.
Despite Warner’s best efforts, the lack of support from the other end led to Australia’s downfall. Warner looked well on course to notch up his 19th ODI ton, but his innings ended in heartbreak as he fell just one short of the mark, stumped on 99 off Dhananjaya de Silva.
The off-spinner played a major role in turning the tide of the match as he also snared Travis Head (27) just as a partnership was brewing between him and Warner. Pat Cummins (35 off 43) was Australia’s last hope and he kept the visitors in the game before he got out in the 48th over.
Australia needed 19 off the last over with only one wicket in hand. But Matthew Kuhnemann (15) gave Sri Lanka a scare by showcasing some improvisation. The No. 10 batter sliced Dasun Shanaka for a boundary off the second ball and followed it up by lapping and lofting the Sri Lanka captain to bring the equation down to five off one ball.
However, Shanaka held his nerves, used the slower ball and pitched it around back of a length, with Kuhnemann spooning a catch to the fielder at cover, giving Sri Lanka a memorable win.
Earlier, put in to bat first, Sri Lanka got off to the worst possible start as Glenn Maxwell outfoxed Niroshan Dickwella in the second over and then Kusal Mendis saw his stumps uprooted after a beautiful delivery by Pat Cummins. Mitchell Marsh also made an immediate impact, getting the vital wicket of Patum Nissanka, as the hosts found themselves reeling at 34/3.
From there on, Dhananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka steadied the ship. After a sedate start, the pair upped the ante, registering a 101-run partnership off just 100 deliveries. Dhananjaya de Silva perished relatively soon after reaching his half-century, but Asalanka carried on to make it count big.
Asalanka continued to battle hard for the Lankan cause, registering some crucial partnerships with Dunith Wellalage and Wandindu Hasaranga. In the process, he also brought up his maiden international ton. Hasaranga (21 not out off 20) and Wellalage (19 off 35) also played handy knocks as Sri Lanka posted 258 in 49 overs, which turned out to be a winning total in the end.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 258 in 49 overs (Charith Asalanka 110; Mitchell Marsh 2-29) beat Australia 254 in 50 overs (David Warner 99; Chamika Karunaratne 2-19, Dhananjaya de Silva 2-39) by four runs.