Sri Lanka threw India’s prospects of a berth in the tri-series finals into jeopardy with a thrilling three-wicket victory over Australia which pushed them to the top of the points table here today.
Chasing Australia’s 280 for six built around Peter Forrest’s maiden ODI century,the islanders overhauled the target with four balls to spare in a match which went down the wire.
Sri Lanka now top the table with 15 points from six games,one point more than second-placed Australia.
Sri Lanka’s win today,their third on the trot in the tournament,left India (10 points from six matches) with the arduous task of winning both the remaining matches to make it to the final.
All the three teams have two games to go and all of them have a chance to make it to the finals. If India win both the two matches,Sri Lanka and Australia will be fighting for the other spot in the final.
The highlight of Sri Lanka’s win was the classy 85 off 81 balls by captain Mahela Jayawardene and a solid 80 off 100 balls by Dinesh Chandimal. The duo shared a crucial 63 runs in 12.3 overs for the third wicket to lay the foundation of their victory.
Down the order and coming out at number eight,Thisara Perera played a cameo of 21 not out from just 11 balls to take Sri Lanka to victory at the Bellerive Oval here. He hit a boundary and a six in the penultimate over off Daniel
Christian to tilt the balance in Sri Lanka’s favour.
Chandimal,on the other hand,anchored the Sri Lankan innings after Jayawardene’s dismissal with a 49-run stand for the fourth wicket with Lahiru Thirimanne from 10.3 overs to take the islanders to the threshold of victory.
After Chandimal’s departure in the 45th over,Sri Lanka looked like losing the plot towards the close with quick dismissals of Farveez Maharoof (5) and Angelo Mathews (2) but Perera struck a four and a six in consecutive balls in the penultimate over bowled by Daniel Christian to seal the match for the islanders.
Jayawardene was in his classy self as he hit Brett Lee for a four early on and then lifted the veteran pacer for a clean six over deep midwicket in the fifth over. Lee was taken off with his first three-over spell costing 22 runs and Ryan Harris replaced him.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (3),on the other end,was quiet allowing his captain do most of the run accumulation. He was the first Sri Lankan to fall as he mistimed an attempted pull shot off Ben Hilfenhaus which landed straight in Peter Forrest’s hands at deep square leg in the eighth over.
Next man in,Kumar Sangakkara (22) was off to a flying start with the first ball he faced off Harris being dispatched to the boundary as Sri Lanka were well on course at 68 for one after 10 overs.
Jayawardene kept quiet for a while but then reached his 64th ODI half century in the 12th over with a three off Daniel Christian.
With the boundaries coming thick and fast,Sri Lanka seemed to be cruising along before Australia struck again in the 14th over with the wicket of Sangakkara. Christian induced a leading edge from Sangakkara which went straight to backward point off a harmless delivery. Sangakkara hit two fours in his run-a-ball knock.
Australia got rid of the dangerous looking Jayawardene with left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty ending a scintillating knock that was threatening to take the game away from Australia,with a gem of a delivery.
Just short of a length ball outside off-stump,it spun sharply and Jayawardene stepped out of his crease to reach to the pitch of the ball but this time was beaten and Mathew Wade did the easy stumping. Jayawardene hit six fours and a six in his 81-ball knock.
It was then left to Chandimal,who hit his sixth ODI half-century today,to shepherd the Lankan innings and he was well-supported by Lahiru Thirimanne (24). His dismissal in the 45th over suddenly created a sort of panic in the Lankan camp before Perera clinched the match for them.
Earlier,Peter Forrest smashed his maiden One-day hundred and skipper Michael Clarke hit a crafty 72 to guide Australia to 280 for six.
Forrest’s first ODI hundred came only in his fourth match and when he took dropped Ricky Ponting’s place in the Australian batting line-up at number three.
In his previous three tri-series matches,Forrest had batted at number four and hit two half-centuries.
Forrest scored 104 runs,first century of the tri-series,and with Clarke,he mustered a 154-run partnership for the third wicket after the hosts had lost both the openers.
Matthew Wade (5) and David Warner (7) were cooling their heels back in the pavilion after Australia had opted to bat.
Forrest and Clarke then combined forces to negate the early advantage that Sri Lanka had gained through pace duo of Nuwan Kulasekara and Farveez Mahroof.
Kulasekara drew the first blood by having Wade caught by Jayawardene in his fifth ball of the innings while Mahroof had Warner caught behind.
Forrest,who had started his ODI career with a 66 against India at Adelaide,hit 10 fours and two sixes in his knock.
He completed his century in the 40th over when he took a single of Thisara Perera but was out two balls later when he ballooned a catch to deep extra cover of Angelo Matthews.
Matthews had removed well-set Clarke in his previous over and two quick strikes brought Sri Lanka back in the match.
Clarke’s 72 came off 79 balls with seven boundaries,including two sixes.
However,Sri Lanka did not get any respite with Mike Hussey (21),his brother David (40 not out) and Brett Lee (20 not out) played handy cameos to get Australia to a very challenging total.