Asela Gunarathne steered Sri Lanka to a nail-biting five-wicket win over Australia in the first T20I match at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Friday.
Photos of the Sri Lanka v South Africa | 1st T20I at Melbourne
Gunarathne smashed his maiden T20I fifty to guide Sri Lanka’s run chase after Australia managed 168 in the first innings. With this win, Sri Lanka remain unbeaten in Australia in T20I cricket with their fourth straight win while the hosts are yet to win on home soil in T20Is since November of 2004 against the Islanders.
Chasing 169 runs to win, Sri Lanka lost Captain Upul Tharanga for a duck but Dilshan Munaweera and Niroshan Dickwella combined in a blistering 47-ball 74-run partnership to give the visitors the ascendancy. They counterattacked stunningly in-front of over 42,000 spectators which were largely Sri Lankans as Munaweera smashed three consecutive boundaries off Billy Stanlake which cost 24 runs.
Dickwella was dismissed by Zampa when a leading catch flew to short third-man while Munaweera plundered a short delivery straight to short-midwicket as the Australian leg-spinner dented the Lankan chase right after he was introduced to the attack.
With 18 runs to win off 18 balls, Gunaratne was stumped off Ashton Turner, who dismissed Milinda Siriwardena thanks to a clear blunder by the umpire two balls later to ensure the match went down to the wire.
Sri Lanka needed 6 off the final over and Andrew Tye bowled brilliantly until Chamara Kapugedara struck a boundary through the covers off the final ball to win the match for Sri Lanka and give them a 1-0 lead in the three-game series.
Earlier, after being sent into bat, the Australian skipper Aaron Finch and the 36-year old debutant Michael Klinger set up the innings perfectly adding 76 runs for the first wicket. Both right-handers found great momentum when they managed 16 runs off debutant Vikum Sanjaya’s second over.
Klinger and Finch rotated the strike to gradually pick up on the scoring rate before chinaman Lakshan Sandakan induced the mistake out of the former as he mistimed a slog sweep. Finch continued to pummel quick runs before Gunarathne dismissed the Australia captain for 44. Tharanga dropped a sitter at point when Travis Head was just 4 runs and the Australian left-hander went onto score 31 off 25 deliveries to propel Australia to a par-score.
Lasith Malinga, making his return to international cricket bowled tidily and bagged a couple of late wickets and finished with 2 for 29 from his 4 overs to provide the much-needed bowling boost for the Lankans.
The second game will be worked off at Geelong on Sunday, 19th February.