Australia won the toss and decided it would be best to bowl first, with weather likely to play a part at some point in the match. At points, Sri Lanka looked good, but once again, none of their batters could turn their starts into a big match winnings innings.
Danushka Gunathilaka (18) and Pathum Nissanka (14) both batted well early, getting past the opening bowling of Josh Hazlewood (0/26), but it was Nissanka that was the first to go when he got a tiny edge through to Carey from the debutant Matthew Kuhnemann (2/48).
Kuhnemann really did impress in his debut; his bowling was accurate, as well as turning a long way when pitched in the right areas. With Ashton Agar now out of the ODI series and possibly even the Test matches, there is a good chance we could see the young Queenslander pull on the whites alongside Nathan Lyon in a couple of weeks.
After Nissanka, it was Gunathilaka after trying to smash a Pat Cummins (4/35) short ball and picking out the debutant in the deep. Some more starts came for the key batters Kusal Mendis (36) and Dhananjaya de Silva (34), but just as they were getting in form and looking good at the crease, they found odd ways to get out.
Mendis tried to sweep a ball but hit the ball directly onto his pad that, then shot out to the bowler Glenn Maxwell (2/35) for an easy catch. It was just an odd piece of cricket. Maxwell followed up a few overs later with his second for the night when he removed Charith Asalanka (13), who wanted to go over mid-wicket.
Maxwell’s two wickets were both key, with the ball coming out of his hand perfectly for an off-spinner. After his 80 in the first ODI and some good knocks in the T20 series, he certainly hasn’t done any harm in getting back into the Test side.
Wickets continued to fall, with Cummins largely cleaning up the tail, who managed to wag a little bit. The last four wickets put on 48 between them to get Sri Lanka to a relatively decent score when the rain started to fall. Sri Lanka finished on 220/9 from 47.4 overs, not a great score, but it wasn’t an easy pitch by any means.
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After a couple of overs of rain, the Aussies found out they would need 216 from 43 overs, a pretty easy equation in most circumstances, but of course, this wasn’t most circumstances.
As always, it would be Aaron Finch (14) and David Warner (37) to open the bowling and to begin with, it looked like they would be scoring quickly. The pair got to 36 within the first six overs and were cruising, which was before Finch tried to go big one too many times and was hit in front of the stumps for LBW.
The run rate slowed right down after the wicket, with only five runs coming from the following three overs. David Warner eventually became frustrated with the low scoring, so he tried to cut an arm ball off the stumps. It couldn’t have ended worse with the ball crashing into the leg stump, leaving the Aussies 2/62 after 13.3 overs.
Smith (28) and Head (23) pushed the ball around for a little while, although the tactics were quite odd to Head. Almost as soon as he entered the crease, the pace bowlers came back on, allowing him to get more and more comfortable at the crease.
Wickets were the issue for the Aussies all through the innings, the required rate only ever bobbed above six per over once, but the wickets fell at regular intervals. Marnus Labuschagne’s (18) wicket brought the main man Maxi (30) to the crease, with the Aussies needing 81 from 14.4 overs. As long as no wickets were to fall, it was going to be a straightforward chase.
No surprise when Maxwell came to the crease, he launched the ball all around the ground, taking a particular liking to the pace bowlers. He found the boundary on five occasions on his way to 30 before launching a ball from Chamika Karunaratne (3/47) in the air with cover taking the catch. 46 were then needed from 52 balls, with Pat Cummins (4) joining Alex Carey (15).
Alex Carey drives a ball through the covers for a beautiful four, but the very next ball, he wanted to come back for a second that just wasn’t there. He put in the big dive but couldn’t make his ground. 39 were then needed from 48 balls; it was always going to be a challenging task.
Pat Cummins did the same as Carey when he hit a four and was out only a couple of balls later. As Cummins went, so did all of Australia’s hope of victory. The wickets just continued to fall, and when it was Swepson to go, the Aussies had lost 4/14 thanks to the pace of Chamika Karunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera (2/19).
The pace bowling of Sri Lanka was just too good, so it made sense when Chameera took the final wicket to give Sri Lanka the victory by 26 runs. Who would’ve thought it would be the pace bowlers to finish the game when spin was so dominant during the match?
Not a great day for the Aussies, although there are some positives to take away from the match. Even though he couldn’t finish, Maxwell looked in form with bat and ball. And Matthew Kuhnemann seems a good prospect even after being helicopter into this match yesterday.
Sri Lanka now equals the series with three still to come in this series. The players now move down south to Colombo for the final three ODI matches before moving onto the red-ball cricket.