Australia routed Sri Lanka by six wickets in a dramatic turn-around of events after an experiment went horribly wrong for the home team in the fourth ODI under lights at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday night.
The result meant Australia took an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series with a match to play on Sunday in Pallekele after bundling out Sri Lanka for a total of 212.
Sri Lanka made two drastic changes bringing in 18-year old schoolboy Avishka Fernando to open the batting while recalling middle order batsman Angelo Perera.
The gamble went horribly wrong as Fernando was trapped leg-before for a duck in the first over giving Mitchell Starc his fourth wicket in the opening over in the four matches on the trot after which Perera attempting a pull-shot to a rising ball from the off-side skied the delivery bowled by leg spinner Adam Zampa for wicket keeper Matthew Wade to get under and hold.
Perera made just seven runs.
In-between came three telling blows for the Sri Lankans when in-form batsmen Kusal Mendis (1) and Dinesh Chandima (5) were dismissed cheaply followed by skipper Angelo Mathews hobbling out of the ground with cramps terminating his innings on 28 while bringing to an end a partnership of 84 runs with Dhananjaya de Silva who opened the batting and top scored with 76.
Mathews resumed his innings later but could only add a further 12 runs before he was dismissed last in the 50th over giving Australian paceman John Hastings his sixth wicket in the match.
Australian opener Aaron Finch set the course for his team with a bludgeoning 55 in 19 balls reaching his fifty in just 17 balls that put him on par with fellow countrymen Simon O’Donnel and Glen Maxwell who reached the half century mark in the same number of balls in the past.
Finch’s exit followed by the wickets of David Warner (19) and Usman Kawaja (0), dubiously ruled out leg-before to a ball that would have missed leg stump, gave Sri Lanka some tantalizing moments but George Bailey was too smart a batsman for the home team to contain as he drove his team to victory with an innings of 90 not out.
What Finch’s knock did was ensure that the rest of the Australian batsmen had a cushion to lean on against the Sri Lankan spinners who produced some alarming turn.
Australia had 19 overs to spare when Matthew Wade hoisted a six over long-on to post the winning hit.
Sri Lanka 212 in 50 overs (Dhananjaya de Silva 76, Angelo Mathews 40, Sachith Pathirana 24, John Hastings 6 for 45)
Australia 217 for 4 in 31 overs (Aaron Finch 55, George Bailey 90 not out, Travis Head 40, Sachith Pathirana 3 for 37)