In-form opener Upul Tharanga scored a century as Sri Lanka claimed a 78-run win in the third one-day international against Australia in Hambantota on Tuesday.
Tharanga’s 111 of 139, his fourth one-day century of 2011, came in just his third match back from a three-month ban for failing a drugs test and kept the five-game series alive going into the final two matches in Colombo.
His knock, as well as valuable contributions by Tillakaratne Dilshan (55 off 59), Kumar Sangakkara (49 off 37) and Mahela Jayawardene (36 off 33), lifted the hosts to 9-286 off their 50 overs after Australia won the toss and chose to field.
Fiery quick Doug Bollinger led the way for the Australians with 4-42 off his 10 overs but it wasn’t enough to stop the Sri Lankans cutting the tourists’ series lead to 2-1 after they could only manage 208 in reply with Michael Hussey’s 63 the highest score. Lasith Malinga also showed he is back to his best after a back injury, ripping through Australia to claim 5-28 off 8.2 overs.
Mitchell Johnson (2-45) and Shane Watson (2-58) also chipped in with the ball but Australia’s spinners were very expensive, with Xavier Doherty (0-41 off five overs), David Hussey (0-34 off five) and Steven Smith (0-15 off two) all receiving treatment from Sri Lanka’s batsmen.
Australia’s batting didn’t get off to a great start with Malinga removing Shane Watson (5) before debutant Shaminda Eranga (2-38) clean-bowled struggling Brad Haddin (5) in his first over of one-day international cricket.
Ricky Ponting (22) showed some poise before Eranga deceived him with a clever slower ball and when Malinga removed captain Michael Clarke (46) the run chase was in trouble at 4-123.
Hussey attempted to save things with Steve Smith (18), but when the latter was run-out brilliantly by an instinctive Nuwan Kulasekara and the former followed a ball later caught at point off Malinga the writing was on the wall.
The series now moves on to Colombo with game four to be played on Saturday.
“The first 10 overs were crucial. We did well to see them off. All the batsmen who followed did well,” said Sri Lanka captain Dilshan. “We believed 260 was a good total to defend and we proved it. Eranga bowled really well and Malinga was good as usual.”
Australian captain Clarke said his team had been outplayed.
“Sri Lanka played really well with bat and ball. We did well to restrict them after that start but they deserved to win,” said Clarke.
“Dougie (Bollinger) did a good job with the ball, there were some plays and misses, but they outplayed us in the end.
We have work to do and need to improve for the next game.” (Reuters)