Kusal Mendis rediscovered his sublime touch as Sri Lanka’s misfiring batting order emerged late from Australia’s stranglehold with a five-wicket consolation win at the MCG to avoid a run of a blank.
Chasing 155 in the fifth and final game, Sri Lanka were teetering at 71 for 4 after all-too-familiar dismissals before Mendis combined with skipper Dasun Shanaka in an 83-game winning partnership to give the visitors a boost of confidence in Australia . conditions ahead of an imminent T20 World Cup.
It was a deserved victory for Sri Lanka, who struggled in the series only to regret the inconsistency as they snapped an eight-game T20I losing streak in Australia. Australia’s bid for a 5-0 first win in the T20I series was thwarted in their final game of the summer at home.
With a local start at 5:10 p.m., two hours earlier than usual, the more family-friendly timeslot attracted 17,556 fans – compared to 13,000 who attended the MCG on Friday – in the series’ highest attendance.
Mendis and Shanaka play for Sri Lanka on the hunt
Even though they lost in form Pathum Nissanka and debutant Kamil Mishara early on, Sri Lanka were all on fire and it paid off as they broke their series best power play with 54 points.
Charith Asalanka started sublimely until an improvised execution of a premeditated scoop against Ashton Agar’s first delivery ended a promising move. That put pressure on fly-half Mendis, who was up to the task as he landed his first T20I half-century since September 2019. He found support through Shanaka who impressively targeted the star spinner Adam Zampa on the floor.
It was the final set with Sri Lanka needing nine runs and Shanaka effectively sealed the result with a huge six on the deep square leg. He dropped the next ball as Sri Lanka needed a point with two balls to go but Chamika Karunaratne kept her cool to ensure the tourists tasted victory.
A shooting Mendis strengthens Sri Lanka’s stick noticeably and is shaping up to be their key hitter at the T20 World Cup. The 27-year-old missed the first two games due to Covid-19 returning from a long suspension for a Covid breach during Sri Lanka’s tour of the UK in the middle of last year.
As he showed here, Mendis is more than capable of summoning winners under pressure.
Chameera savors Australian conditions
It was a complete performance for Sri Lanka, whose attack mostly impressed and put Australia under pressure on several occasions during the series.
They did it again in the final, even without the all-round star Wanindu Hasaranga and the quick Binura Fernando, to leave Australia struggling at 55 for 3 at the halfway mark. Bowling at high speeds of 90mph/145kph, Dushmantha Chameera conjured up a menacing bounce, which depicted Josh Inglis in top form who gloved a venomous shortball before it smashed into his helmet.
It was the best performance from a fiery Chameera in an encouraging series, who produced seven wickets, as he relished faster Australian conditions in a sign of what might be to come later in the year. Sri Lanka should feel they can inflict damage in the T20 World Cup with a well-equipped attack for Australian conditions.
Finch and McDermott fail at the top
Australia experimented with their stick in this series, but the all-rounder Agar’s trial as a hard-hitting flyhalf ended after two games.
Skipper Aaron Finch returned to the top but his form drought continued when he fell for 8 in his sixth single-digit tally in the T20I’s last eight games. Fellow opener Ben McDermott also failed and fell for half a century in the opener in a disappointment for the recently minted MVP BBL.
He made just 3 of 13 before falling obediently and didn’t bid hard enough for a permanent place in a lineup missing out on T20 World Cup winners David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith.
Fringe hitter Inglis had staked his claims and started fast with flowing shots through his favorite middle zone. However, the No. 3 fell to 23 which led to a mid-order collapse where Australia fell to 82 for 5.
But Matthew Wade, who hadn’t needed much in this series, showed his growing prowess to finish a set with an unbeaten 43 from 27 balls to take Australia to a total that proved insufficient. (cricinfo)