Australia seemed to be flying towards the target at one point, but were ambushed by Sri Lanka’s spinners with 70 to get.
They limped their way through the late overs, and fought valiantly to take this twisting match to the last ball. But Sri Lanka held on by their fingertips to send a raucous Khettarama into raptures.
Having let what seemed like a comfortable final over become dire by conceding three fours to Australia’s No. 10 Matthew Kuhnemann, Dasun Shanaka bowled a slower ball with five to defend and had the batter sky the ball to Asalanka, who took a comfortable catch at cover.
It had been Sri Lanka’s phalanx of spinners, especially Dhananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka who chiefly scripted the victory, though. Asalanka’s contribution was mainly with the bat. He hit his maiden ODI century after he and de Silva lifted Sri Lanka from 34 for 3 with a century-stand, de Silva making a smooth 60 off 61.
De Silva then claimed two wickets in a crucial middle-overs passage that sucked the air out of Australia’s chase. Among his victims was David Warner, whose 99 off 112 seemed to have set Australia on track for a series-levelling victory.
The four-run win sealed the series 3-1 – Sri Lanka’s first bilateral series victory at home over this opposition in 30 years.
Earlier, Charith Asalanka struck a maiden ODI hundred, and Dhananjaya de Silva breezed to 60, to raise Sri Lanka out of the mire they had been in at 34 for 3. But just as the innings had begun badly, it ended poorly as well – Sri Lanka losing three batters to mix-ups, and their last five wickets for 51 runs, leaving one over unused.
Still, the 101-run fourth-wicket stand between Asalanka and de Silva, plus Asalanka’s associations with Dunith Wellalage (57 runs for the sixth wicket).—Agencies