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AUS v SL 1st T20I Review: Sri Lanka manage to keep their nerves in a last ball win

Asela Gunaratne Sri Lanka
Asela Gunaratne Sri Lanka. (Photo Source: Twitter)

On a high after having won the T20 International series against South Africa, Sri Lanka continued their good form in the shortest format. The first T20 International at the MCG proved to be a good outing for the visitors as they began the series on a winning note. Earlier Cricket Australia had announced a second string squad for the so-called ‘Who Cares Cup’. The main squad is in the subcontinent on the Indian Test tour.

The stand-in skipper Upul Tharanga won the toss as Sri Lanka elected to field first. Lasith Malinga made his first international appearance in almost a year coming back strong recovering from a knee injury. On the other hand, Australia had three debutants turning up for the opening game in the form of Michael Klinger, Billy Stanlake, and Ashton Turner. At the age of 36, Klinger became the oldest Australian to make a T20 international debut.

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The Australian openers began particularly well as both Aaron Finch and Klinger cashed in on the pacers plight. Together they piled up 43 runs in the first five overs. However once the spinners were brought in, the Lankans gained control of the match and restricted the run flow. The pressure caught on as Michael Klinger was the first to return back to the pavilion scoring 38 (32).

Aussie skipper Finch who was looking fluent in his approach ended up skying a slower delivery. He was the top scorer in the Australian innings with 43 (34) that included two boundaries and a couple of sixes. Travis Head and Moises Henriques tried to get the situation under control. While Henriques looked fine, he failed to accelerate later in the innings as he found the long on trying to clear one over the fence.

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Travis Head managed to hang in till the penultimate over with a solid 31 runs from 25 balls. Turner and James Faulkner made useful contributions in the end. Tim Paine got out without facing a ball as he sacrificed his wicket to give Faulkner the license to hit in the last over. Australia put up a total of 168/6 in their quota of 20 overs.

Talk of the champion and he’s here. Malinga had a splendid return to international cricket as he struck twice getting Travis Head and Ashton Turner on consecutive balls. Nuwan Kulasekara was taken to the cleaners and also went wicketless. Sanjaya managed to get a wicket but was quite expensive. Spinner Seekkuge Prasanna was quite economical while Sandakan bowled well too.

Sri Lanka didn’t quite have the desired start, as Upul Tharanga was back to the pavilion for a duck, by the end of the first over. From there on, Niroshan Dickwella and Dilshan Munaweera batted beautifully. They combined for a 74-run partnership off just 47 balls for the second wicket. Dickwella got out scoring 30 runs from 25 balls as he got a leading age off leggie Adam Zampa. Dilshan followed him soon after as his gritty knock of 44 (29) came to an end.

Right-handed batsman Asela Gunaratne who was playing only his 5th T20 international finally proved his efficiency with the bat. He scored his maiden half century to take the visitors closer to victory. He smashed 52 runs from just 37 balls before getting stumped. Siriwardana failed to hang in too as Turner’s twin strikes raised Australian hopes again.

The game went on till the last over with 6 runs required. Andrew Tye literally bowled his hearts out as he restricted Sri Lanka to 3 runs in the first 4 balls. After taking a couple off the penultimate delivery, Chamara Kapugedera hammered a full ball through covers for a boundary to secure a last ball win and help Sri Lanka gain an edge in the series.

Pat Cummins bowled well and also got a wicket. On the other hand, his bowling partner Billy Stanlake had a forgettable debut as he leaked a lot of runs. Faulkner was economical while Tye bowled a good last over. However, the pick of the bowlers was Zampa and Turner who got a couple of wickets each.

Australia continued their poor run in T20 internationals at home. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, might be lurking far behind in the longer formats but have played like lions when it comes to the T20 format. Both teams now travel to Geelong Victoria which is slated to host its first ever international game.

Brief Scores:

Australia: 168/6 (Aaron Finch 43; Lasith Malinga 2/29)

 Sri Lanka: (Asela Gunaratne 52; Ashton Turner 2/12)

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