Pathum Nissanka’s first ODI hundred paved the way for Sri Lanka’s sensational six-wicket victory over Australia in the third ODI in Colombo.
Australia wins the toss
Aaron Finch chose to bat after winning the toss and made numerous substitutions. Mitch Marsh returned to replace the injured Steve Smith, while Pat Cummins and Mitchell Swepson gave way to Jhye Richardson and Cameron Green. For Sri Lanka, Niroshan Dickwella replaced Danushka Gunathilaka, who was out due to a hamstring injury.
Sri Lanka dominate the first half
Sri Lanka drew first blood through Dushmantha Chameera, who surprised David Warner with the short ball in the third over. Just as the collaboration between Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh was about to begin, young Dunith Wellalage struck in his very first skip.
With the field assisting the spinners, Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne had to play carefully. Even though the lines dried up, the duo continued to spin the strike very well in their 69-run stand. Finch reached 50 and led Australia out of trouble.
Finch and Labuschagne crushed Chamika Karunaratne for a boundary each in the 23rd, which seemed a sign of intent. However, Jeffrey Vandersay sent them both into consecutive overs.
Carey, Head revives Australia
At 122/4 at the end of 27 overs, Australia had to rebuild the innings after losing its two sets of batters. The field continued to help the bowlers and running between the wickets was the only way to make the scoreboard tick.
In fact, between overs 27-37 there was only one boundary goal, yet the pair of Alex Carey and Travis Head managed to add nearly 50 runs in partnership.
The next three overs were much more fruitful for Australia, with Carey and Head finding four boundaries, although the first was short of his fifty.
Carey’s wicket brought the dangerous Glenn Maxwell to the crease with 10 overs to go. Maxwell showed great intention from the start, but was lucky enough to be dropped by Dhananjaya de Silva on his second ball. He unleashed a series of shots during his short stay and left after a cameo of 18 balls and 33 runs.
Travis Head made up for his slow start in the last three overs with three sixes and two fours. He remained undefeated at 70 while Australia set Sri Lanka a target of 292.
Mendis, Nissanka lay foundation for record hunt
Dickwella was drafted into the XI for the match and got Sri Lanka going in their pursuit. Although his stay lasted only 26 balls for 25 runs, the early impulse set the tone for the rest of the innings.
Kusal Mendis picked up where Dickwella had left off, while Pathum Nissanka held onto one side. The run rate crept to more than six after the Powerplay, but Mendis crushed Green for consecutive limits to ease the pressure.
With the onset of the dew, the Australian spinners were unable to make the same purchase as their Sri Lankan counterparts, leaving Nissanka and Mendis easy to milk borders.
Both batters reached their respective fifties in consecutive overs. Halfway through, the hosts had to run for the win.
Nissanka started to stall after hitting his milestone but was held back by cramps. Mendis also needed medical attention due to a hamstring problem and had to retire injured at the age of 87. He was unlucky to miss a hundred, but his partner Nissanka reached his first ODI ton.
On the other hand, Dhananjaya played a brilliant cameo to keep the required run rate in check, while Nissanka also took over the attack towards the bowlers.
Jhye Richardson needed 8 out of 18 and struck twice in an over to clear both Nissanka and Dasun Shanaka to send some jitters into the Sri Lanka camp. However, Charith Asalanka hit a six when the hosts needed seven out of 11 and took his side home.
It was Sri Lanka’s record chase against Australia in ODI cricket, as well as their highest successful chase at the R. Premadasa Stadium.