Sri Lanka make it two in a row

Inspired by a brilliant comeback century from Sanath Jayasuria, Sri Lanka swept to a commanding victory over Australia at the SCG. The victory keeps the VB series well and truly alive, with all three teams competitive and evenly matched.

The day began with Marvan Atapattu winning the toss and electing to bat on what looked to be an excellent batting pitch. Australia made two surprising selection changes, resting Glenn McGrath to include Nathan Bracken, and dropping Phil Jaques after 94 on debut to allow Simon Katich to return. Sri Lanka recalled veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuria from injury.

McGrath’s exclusion looked to be a costly one early on, as Sri Lanka recovered from the loss of an early wicket to blast Australia’s second-string seam attack through the middle overs. The last time the sides met at the SCG in an ODI, Jayasuria dominated with a century and led his team to victory, and once again he was in top form. Following an economical start from Lee and Bracken, the introduction of Dorey and Hopes to the attack saw Jayasuria go on the attack, throwing both bowlers off their length with brutal attacking strokeplay, and sending both limping out of the attack with astonishing economy rates in excess of 10.

Desperate to reduce the run rate, Ponting recalled Lee and Bracken to the attack for the final power play, and then subbed Brett Dorey out of the game in favour of the spin of Brad Hogg. The move immediately looked a good one, as the pitch appeared inclined to turn from the first ball. Jayasuria suffered in the heat as his innings progressed, and fell to a tired stroke against Hogg, missing a big turner and offering a simple stumping chance. The opportunity was there for Australia to get quick wickets and reduce the likely target.

While Hogg and the part-time spinners did manage to cut the scoring rate, the wickets didn’t come, and strong contributions from Jayawardene and Atapattu assisted Sangakkara with his anchoring work, pushing the score inevitably towards 300. The total was held close to 300 by some good death bowling from the seamers and, surprisingly, Michael Clarke, but the eventual score of 7/309 was always going to be a very challenging one. The pitch appeared to be well-suited to the Sri Lankan attack, slowing significantly as the match wore on and offering assistance for spin.

Australia needed a good start with the field up, but a combination of clever bowling and poor batting prevented it. The Sri Lankan seamers learned from the mistakes made by Australia’s bowlers, forgetting traditional line and length bowling to drop pace, running their fingers across the ball and making scoring difficult. Perera and Vaas both used this tactic to great effect, frustrating the Australian batsmen and bringing about several early wickets. When Katich fell, caught in the deep off Perera, the score was 3/41 after 13 overs, and a chase in excess of 300 seemed all but impossible.

Ponting produced his own tactical manouvers however, promoting ‘keeper Brad Haddin up the order to inject some life into the chase with rapid scoring, and the move proved a successful one. The New South Wales captain attacked the bowling, unafraid to play risky strokes in an effort to increase the run rate, and partnered by Michael Clarke he kept the required rate in check, maintaining slim hopes of an Australian win.

It was Muttiah Muralitharan who forced Australia on to the back foot once again, decieving Haddin with a doosra and clean bowling him. An even greater blow for Australia followed immediately after, as specialist finisher Michael Hussey was run out returning for a risky second run as Chaminda Vaas hit directly from the outfield.

Once again, Australia seemed out of the contest, but another aggressive partnership kept the match alive. Michael Clarke began to find form in his innings, keeping the required rate in check as Andrew Symonds got his eye in at the crease, and when Symonds too unleased his attacking strokes, even the necessary 9 an over seemed likely enough if the pair remained in. As the partnership grew, Symonds and Clarke exploded for 28 runs in a two over period, as even Murali struggled to control the runs. It took a brilliant fielding performance from Dilshan to break the partnership and seal the Sri Lankan win, as he dived to perform a superb stop, resulting in a mix-up and a comfortable run out to dismiss Symonds.

From there, it was a formality, as Michael Clarke holed out off Bandara, and Hopes and Hogg gave up on the run chase to save the bonus point and hand Sri Lanka a 51 run victory. Bandara spun through the tail in the final over to finish with an impressive haul for the second game in a row, and Sri Lanka moved alongside Australia at the top of the VB Series points tally.

Sri Lanka 7/309 (50)
Sanath Jayasuria 114 (96), Kumar Sangakkara 78 (95)
Nathan Bracken 2/40 (10), Brad Hogg 1/31 (6)

Australia 258 (50)
Michael Clarke 67 (70), Brad Haddin 41 (44)
Malinga Bandara 4/58 (10), Ruchira Perera 2/37 (9)

Sri Lanka win by 51 runs.

CricketWeb Man of the Match
Sanath Jayasuria – 114 (96) & 0/50 (8)

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