Australia has avoided the ignominy of consecutive Twenty20 series whitewashes on home soil with a 41-run consolation victory over Sri Lanka in game three at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday night (February 22).
It was Australia’s first T20I victory at home since November of 2014, ending a five-match losing streak. The result was Sri Lanka’s first T20I loss in Australia, having won their previous five matches, but the visitors will head home pleased after winning the series 2-1 through two memorable last-ball victories in Melbourne and Geelong.
In the final match of the international summer, Australia – unlike the previous two heartbreaking losses – were able to defend with aplomb, bowling out Sri Lanka for 146 with two overs to spare. After posting a highly competitive 187/6, largely through half-centuries from openers Aaron Finch and Michael Klinger, Australia enjoyed a complete bowling performance to ensure there would be no nervous finish.
After being surprisingly left out in Geelong, Adam Zampa, the Australian legspinner, spun a web in the middle overs in a striking display that further raised eyebrows on his omission for the crux game two. James Faulkner also starred with the ball, picking up three wickets for 20 runs off the three overs that he bowled.
Sri Lanka suffered a mid-innings collapse, losing five wickets for 23 runs, with Zampa (3 for 25 off 4 overs) claiming three of those wickets including the prized scalp of Asela Gunaratne (4), who had single-handedly won game two through his wizardry with the willow. Two wickets in the 12th over to Zampa effectively ended the game with Sri Lanka unable to conjure another miraculous victory.
It was a disappointing collapse after hopes were high for Sri Lanka, who started in trademark brisk fashion. Even without suspended opener Niroshan Dickwella, Sri Lanka dazzled with Dilshan Munaweera promoted up a spot after impressing with his audaciousness in the opening two matches. In the second over, Munaweera smashed precocious paceman Jhye Richardson’s first ball for six in a calculated assault as the 20-year-old conceded 20 runs in the over.
Shortly after, Munaweera (37 off 25 balls) was dropped in a relatively easy chance by Zampa but he was unable to cash in after holing out off Travis Head’s first ball of the series. It triggered a collapse as Zampa soon made up for his blunder with a match-winning spell.
Earlier, for the third straight match, Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bowl as Australia got off to a flier, albeit aided by a major blunder from Milinda Siriwardana who dropped Finch in the first over when the Australian opener hadn’t scored.
Finch capitalised on the reprieve by immediately going on the attack and he smashed a six two balls later to signal his newfound intent. The Victorian improvised impressively, notably by shuffling across his stumps and swatting the ball away, as the opening stand reached 50 in the fifth over.
Finch (53 off 32 balls) ensured Australia tracked at around 10 runs an over and reached his half-century with a six, but soon after he holed out in the ninth over. Ben Dunk, the belligerent No. 3, ensured Australia’s momentum continued with an entertaining 21-ball 28 highlighted by a savage assault on Vikum Sanjaya in the 13th over, which included a six and a boundary off consecutive deliveries.
At the other end, Klinger played with trademark orthodoxy in an effort to bat through the innings but also scored at a healthy clip. Playing on a ground he once called home, the 36-year-old smashed a boundary to reach his first international half-century but he was being continually overshadowed by the heavy hitters at the other end.
Travis Head (30 off 16 balls), playing in front of his adoring home crowd, took over from Dunk to provide the fireworks including consecutive sixes in the 17th over, as Lasith Malinga was smashed for 20 runs. The slingy pacer though did justice to his status as a specialist death bowler when he bagged two wickets in the penultimate over.
Australia looked set for a mammoth score of over 200 but they once again faulted late, losing four wickets for five runs, including Klinger (62 off 43) who was run out as the home side lost momentum to finish with a slightly less imposing total. It still proved well and truly enough as Australia’s maligned bowling attack ensured the team finished off the home summer in winning style.
Brief scores: Australia 187/6 in 20 overs (Michael Klinger 62, Aaron Finch 53; Dasun Shanaka 2-27, Lasith Malinga 2 for 35) beat Sri Lanka 146 in 18 overs (Dilshan Munaweera 37, Milinda Siriwardana 35; James Faulkner 3-20, Adam Zampa 3-25) by 41 runs.