A spectacular unbeaten 84 by Asela Gunaratne helped Sri Lanka edge out Australia by two wickets and clinch the three-match Twenty20 International series with a game to spare in Geelong on Sunday (February 19).
Gunaratne, the right-hand batsman, hammered six fours and five sixes during his 46-ball knock as Sri Lanka hunted down Australia’s 173 all out by reaching 176 for 8 off the final ball of the 20th over. Gunaratne brought up the victory when he smashed the last ball of the match, from Andrew Tye, over cover for the winning boundary.
It was the second time in three nights that Sri Lanka had pulled off a last-ball victory. Chamara Kapugedera had hammered a boundary to win Friday’s opening match in Melbourne. This win extended Sri Lanka’s winning streak against Australia in T20Is to five matches.
Sri Lanka faced a stiff ask with 48 needed off the last three overs, but Gunaratne tore into the Australian attack, slamming Moises Henriques for three consecutive sixes and a four, and then taking two fours and a six off Tye’s final over.
Australia had seemed on course for a series-levelling win when Sri Lanka slumped to 40 for 5 in the fifth over with Tye picking up two of those wickets.
But Gunaratne, who had blasted 52 off 37 balls in the Melbourne, lashed out spectacularly while Kapugedera chipped in with a run-a-ball 32 to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt before Gunaratne’s pyrotechnics in the end settled the issue.
Henriques had earlier brought up his maiden T20I half-century to steer Australia to 173 after it was put in by Upul Tharanga. The powerful all-rounder remained unbeaten on 56 from 37 balls when last man Jhye Richardson, the debutant, was cleaned by Nuwan Kulasekara off the final ball of the innings. Henriques made the most of being put down on 19 by Kapugedera.
That was one of three wickets in the final over for veteran paceman Kulasekara , who finished with 4 for 31 from his four overs.
Australia had made a strong start despite losing captain Aaron Finch in the third over, with Michael Klinger slamming 43 off 37 balls and Ben Dunk blazing 32 off just 14 balls. Dilshan Munaweera went for 22 in one over, Dunk taking him for three sixes and a four.
Australia made two changes to the team that lost in Melbourne, blooding Richardson, the paceman, and bringing back Dunk. Out went Billy Stanlake, the fast bowler, and Adam Zampa, the leg-spinner.
Sri Lanka made a solitary change, with Kusal Mendis replacing Lakshan Sandakan, the chinaman bowler.
The teams now travel to Adelaide for the final match of the series on Wednesday with Sri Lanka eyeing a 3-0 sweep and a sixth straight T20I win over the host.
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