Sri Lanka pulled off an unbelievable consolation victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground over the Aussies. The Islanders managed to win their last league match of the CB Series by 13 runs despite an electrifying knock of 83 from just 50 balls (with 12 fours and 2 sixes) from Adam Gilchrist. Sri Lanka were defending a moderate target of 222 under lights.
The Sri Lankans had yet another disappointing batting performance. Thanks to half centuries from Mahela Jayawardene (50 from 66 with 5 fours) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (62 from 70 with 3 fours), they got themselves to a near competitive total of 221. It still wasn’t a bad score considering that they were at 61 for 4 in the 20th over. Chamara Silva, who came in at no.7 came up with an important score of 35 from 48 balls towards the end. The Australian bowling star was Nathan Bracken. The left armer had incredibly mean figures of 8-3-9-1 at one stage and towards the end got rewarded with a total of 4 wickets giving away 29 in his 10.
In the absence of a ‘rested’ Matthew Hayden, James Hopes was given an opportunity to have a good stay at the top. Hopes did just that along with Adam Gilchrist, who was playing for the crowd. Gilchrist after taking Lasith Malinga out of the attack, pounce on Muttiah Muralitharan. After surviving an lbw scare from the offie, Gilchrist simply went on the rampage against Murali. The Sri Lankans found their breakthrough when Murali’s doosra had a feather touch to Hopes’ off stump. Hopes had contributed just the 28 (from 42 balls with 3 fours) in an opening partnership of 107 in 14.4 overs. In the next over, Gilchrist holed out in the deep to fall short of what could have been yet another ton against Sri Lanka.
Things were under control for the chasing team at 113 for 2 with the inform Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in the middle. However, the Sri Lankans bowled brilliantly through the combination of Amerasinghe and Kulasekara to dry up the runs. That gave way to a a double breakthrough with both pacers getting the important wickets of Clarke (0 from 11, bowled by Amerasinghe) and Ponting (1 from 11, lbw to Kulasekara). The Sri Lankans began to control the match when Andrew Symonds was caught down the legside for a duck by the keeper off Amerasinghe to have the score reading at 115 for 5! The match in a way was sealed once, Haddin and Hussey departed to make it 142 for 7. Haddin’s wicket was courtesy of a beautifully disguised slower delivery in the blockhole from Malinga. Hussey was surprised by a reverse swinging inswinger from the part time Chamara Kapugedera.
The Aussies did try to come back in the game though a couple of decent knocks from Brad Hogg (21), who has just announced his retirement from international cricket and Brett Lee (37 from 59 with 2 fours and a six). The Sri Lankans held their nerve to finish the match in their favour as their bowlers struck vital blows. The last wicket partnership worried the fielding side with Bracken batting with total composure with Brett Lee. In the final two overs, Australia needed 14 to win and the first ball of the penultimate over saw Jayasuriya cleaning up the stumps off Brett Lee to settle the matter. Lee and Bracken had put on 35 till then! The Man of the Match went to Adam Gilchrist.