Asela Gunarathne smashed the innings of his life to produce one of the greatest wins for Sri Lanka as they came from behind to defeat Australia by 2 wickets in the second T20I which was worked off in Geelong on Sunday.
Gunaratne pounded the Australian bowlers with 5 sixes and 6 fours during his unbeaten 84 off 46 balls to anchor Sri Lanka to an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Sri Lanka looked dead and buried when they were 40 for 5 in the 5th over. Gunaratne then played a wonderful innings taking responsibility solely on his shoulders to finish the match which went down to the wire, with the visitors needing 2 runs in the final delivery.
With the Islanders needing 48 off the last three overs, Gunaratne tore into the Australian attack, brandishing Moises Henriques for three consecutive sixes and a four and then taking two fours and a six off Andrew Tye’s final over.
It was the second time the Sri Lankans had denied Australia victory off the last ball, with Chamara Kapugedera hammering a boundary to win Friday’s opening match in Melbourne.
Chasing 174 runs to win, Sri Lanka lost skipper Upul Tharanga in the first over which brought a reunion between Niroshan Dickwella and Dilshan Munaweera. They smashed 17 off Pat Cummins’ first over but the former was deemed caught behind attempting the scoop shot off James Faulkner but replays confirmed the ball had hit his shoulder.
Shortly after, debutant Jhye Richardson struck in his first over of international cricket when he enticed an edge from Kusal Mendis to leave Sri Lanka in tatters at 27 for 3. Munaweera and Milinda Siriwardana fell in consecutive deliveries to fast-bowler Tye in the fifth over until Gunaratne stunningly rewrote the script.
Gunaratne and Kapugedera added 52 for the 6th wicket with the latter chipping in with a run-a-ball 32. Kulasekara hung in with Gunarathne adding 41 for the 8th wicket but it was all about the lone- solider Gunarathne’s heroics.
Henriques earlier hit his first T20I half-century to steer Australia to 173 after they were sent in to bat by Sri Lanka. The big-hitting all-rounder was left unbeaten on 56 from 37 balls after being dropped on 19 by Chamara Kapugedara when the last wicket fell off the final ball.
Nuwan Kulasekara captured three wickets in the final over to finish with a career-best 4 for 31 from four overs and partnered up with Lasith Malinga who took 2 for 31 to restrict the hosts after they were all set for a 180+ score. Sri Lanka did not help their cause with a few dropped catches but Milinda Siriwardana took a superb diving catch at long-off to dismiss Ashton Turner for 7.
Australia began strongly but lost skipper Aaron Finch when Vikum Sanjaya’s extra bounce handed a simple caught and bowl opportunity. Michael Klinger slammed 43 off 37 balls and Big Bash League’s top run-scorer Ben Dunk, who was drafted into the team for this game clobbered 32 off only 14 balls including 22 runs off Dilshan Munaweera’s one and only over.
The Sri Lankans remain unbeaten in five T20Is in Australia, but this was their finest come-from-behind performance in front of their jubilent expatriate fans.
The third and final match will be played on 22nd February at Adelaide Oval.