Aussies crush Sri Lankans

A recharged Australian outfit took the 2nd VB Series final in emphatic fashion.

Going into the SCG match one-nil down in a finals series for the first time in eight years, the Aussies recovered from a horror start to post their largest ever ODI total, finishing with a mammoth 368-5 and defeating the Sri Lankans by a massive 167 runs.

Sri Lanka´s Chaminda Vaas began proceedings in spectacular fashion,
removing Gilchrist for a duck. In his next over, Vaas had Katich trapped plumb in front and then Martyn caught at first slip
to leave the Australians reeling with three wickets down for only ten runs. However, Ricky Ponting was determined not to let the series slip away and played a magnificent innings, in partnership with Andrew Symonds to steer the home side to a record total. Ponting immediately set about attacking the bowling despite the precarious situation. The Sri Lankan bowlers did not help proceedings after Vaas´ brilliant start, bowling much too short to Ponting in particular.

At the other end Symonds began cautiously, well aware of the situation. However he tucked into some poor bowling from Kulasekara to get his innings going, and soon proved almost unstoppable. Kulasekara was subbed off after five expensive overs to make way for the rising star, leg-spinner Malinga Bandara. The pair grew in confidence and were soon motoring along at six runs per over. Symonds was particularly harsh on the star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who seemed much below his best. Neither Symonds nor Ponting were prepared to let him settle and he eventually finished with the worst ever bowling figures for a ten over spell, going for 99 runs.

As Ponting and Symonds batted on and on, Atapattu was at a loss to work out what could stop them. The partnership eventually totalled a record-breaking 237 from just 226 balls. Ponting contributed another excellent hundred although his knock was not without a brief hiccup. On 57, Jayawardene was convinced he had held a sharp low catch at gully off the bowling of Perera. The Sri Lankans were convinced, however the umpires weren’t and Ponting was allowed to continue although replays showed the catch was indeed cleanly taken. Ponting eventually brought up his 19th ODI hundred, his first at the SCG. After reaching his hundred Ponting stepped up a gear, smashing Perera for three consecutive fours before perishing going for another big one down the ground. He was eventually out for a brilliant knock of 124 off 127 balls.

Meanwhile Symonds was also batting fluently. He brought up his 4th ODI hundred soon after Ponting and immediately took it up a notch as only Andrew Symonds can. Despite the dismissal of Ponting, Symonds did not slow down and soon brought up his 2nd knock of over 150 in a One Day International. He went from 100 to 150 in only 24 balls but was noticeably tiring near the end of the innings, eventually being trapped plumb in front for a spectacular knock of 151 in only 127 balls, featuring thirteen hits to the boundary and three over it.

The dismissal of Symonds only brought in the in-form Hussey. Clarke, who had gone out to the middle when Ponting was dismissed, and Hussey added 48 in only 17 deliveries and Clarke also managed to notch up the fastest half-century of the series in 27 balls, finishing on 54 not out and Hussey on 23 not out off 8 balls. The Aussies finished with the massive total of 368-5, beating their record of 359-2 against India in the final of the 2003 World Cup and their 359-5 against the same opposition in the 2nd VB Series final in 2004.

The Sri Lankans knew they had to make history to even approach the Aussie total. However, they began dismally with Jayasuriya gone for a duck in only the 2nd over flicking straight to short fine-leg off the bowling of Nathan Bracken. His dismissal was crucial, with Jayasuriya having notched up hundreds in his last three ODIs at the SCG. Sangakkara began confidently, stroking Bracken for four through point off the first delivery he faced. He couldn’t last though, and was clean bowled charging at Bracken to give him his 2nd wicket for the evening. Jayawardene also began confidently, and for a brief period looked like leading a revival with his captain, Marvan Atapattu.
Atapattu was soon gone for 24, and the any hope the Sri Lankans had was quickly fading.

Jayawardene and Arnold continued scoring quickly but when Jayawardene was bowled off the edge by Hogg for an even 50, the Sri Lankans collapsed in the face of an unattainable target. Russel Arnold did his best to keep the score ticking over but the asking rate blew out above eight runs per over and there was a procession of wickets at the other end. The Sri Lankans looked dead and buried at 146-7 with Arnold the only recognised batsman at the crease, however a quick partnership of 53 in 46 balls between Muttiah Muralitharan and Arnold entertained the crowd.

Murali was always looking for the big shots and succeeded in hitting Hogg for two enormous sixes in his career-best 27 off 24 balls and he and Arnold matched the Aussie innings for a brief period before Murali fell to a brilliant catch from Australian super-sub, Mick Lewis. However, it was too little too late and although Arnold finished on 64 not out off 62 balls, the Sri Lankans were dismissed for 201 in only the 36th over. Nathan Bracken finished with the excellent figures of 4-30 from six overs while Hogg and Symonds chipped in for two wickets apiece and Stuart Clark for one.

The Australian cricket team now goes to Brisbane high on confidence and back to their destructive best, while the Sri Lankans can reflect on how to improve a lacklustre bowling attack in time for the 3rd final. The Sri Lankans will rue letting Ponting and Symonds get away after a brilliant start, removing the first three wickets cheaply while the Aussies will be pleased with the return to form of Ricky Ponting after a relatively quiet VB Series.

Australia 368-5
Andrew Symonds 151, Ricky Ponting 124, Michael Clarke 54*
Chaminda Vaas 4-56

Australia won by 167 runs.

Sri Lanka 201
Russel Arnold 64*, Mahela Jayawardene 50
Nathan Bracken 4-30, Andrew Symonds 2-32, Brad Hogg 2-35

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Andrew Symonds – 151, 2-32

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