Finch’s men put up 168 for 6, but Gunaratne, Kapugedera stun home side to secure five-wicket win
Chamara Kapugedera belted a four off the last ball to give Sri Lanka an incredible five-wicket win over Australia in its first Twenty20 International at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday (February 17).
The win, coming on the back of its 2-1 series win over South Africa last month, kept Sri Lanka unbeaten in four T20I games in Australia. Sri Lanka lead the series 1-0 with two games to be played in Geelong on Sunday and Adelaide on Wednesday.
A lot of the credit should go to Asela Gunaratne, whose fiery 52 off 37 balls, earned him man of the match. Gunaratne hit seven fours to forge a 60-run stand with Milinda Siriwardana to put Sri Lanka just 18 runs short of victory with 17 balls remaining.
It was a nervy finish with Aaron Finch, the Australia captain, making several fielding changes to keep Sri Lanka on its toes. But Kapugedera withstood the pressure and smacked the last delivery of Andrew Tye, the paceman, through the covers to the boundary rope for the winning runs.
Australia was playing without Steven Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood — all on tour in India — but made a competitive total of 168 for 6 off its 20 overs.
Finch hit two sixes and two fours in his 43 off 34 balls, sharing in an opening stand of 76 with Michael Klinger. The 36-year-old debutant, who starred with Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, slammed 38 off 32 balls with four fours.
Lasith Malinga, whose last full international game was in February 2016, came up with a strong performance with two wickets in two balls and taking two catches. Malinga (2 for 29) claimed the wickets of Travis Head for 31 off 24 balls and Ashton Turner, the debutant, for 18 off 13 balls, both caught by Seekkugge Prasanna at deep mid-wicket.
Pat Cummins, the paceman, struck with the last ball of his opening over getting Upul Tharanga, the Sri Lanka captain, to edge to Tim Paine, the wicketkeeper, for a duck in the first over of Sri Lanka’s chase.
Adam Zampa, the legspinner, then snapped up two big wickets. Niroshan Dickwella (30), who hit four fours and a six, looked to flick Zampa over mid-wicket only to lob a leading edge to Klinger at short third man in the ninth over. Dilshan Munaweera scored an assured 44 off 29 balls with six fours before he hit a short ball from Zampa to mid-wicket where Finch took a head-high catch.
But Sri Lanka wasn’t ruffled. Gunaratne took charge and his half-century turned the tide to set up a rousing win.