David Warner was out for 99 and a new star’s attempted heroics fell agonisingly short as Australia suffered a rare series defeat to Sri Lanka.
Skipper Dasun Shanaka said Sri Lanka’s four-run series clinching win over Australia was “much needed” for the island nation, which battles its worst ever economic crisis.
Charith Asalanka made 110 to guide Sri Lanka to 258 all out, a total that proved just enough to hand the hosts an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series in Colombo.
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Spinners combined to bowl out Australia for 254 as Sri Lanka won its first bilateral series against the Aussies since 2010.
The near-capacity crowd at the R. Premadasa Stadium stood up to applaud in an expression of joy that comes amid a grim economic situation in the country with acute shortages of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.
“Not only for me, my teammates, Sri Lanka cricket, the whole country, this is much needed at the moment,” Shanaka said after the win. “I think this should be celebrated by the whole of Sri Lanka.”
The cricketing achievement comes as Sri Lanka’s economy has collapsed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with a nosedive in tourism revenues and foreign worker remittances.
Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeffrey Vandersay and fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne, who was the only regular seamer in the team, took two wickets each.
Pat Cummins’ late cameo of 35 and a 12-ball 15 by number 10 Matthew Kuhnemann, who hit three fours as Australia needed 15 runs from the 50th over, gave Sri Lanka a scare, but in the end the visitors fell agonisingly short.
Earlier Asalanka rescued Sri Lanka from a precarious 3-34 as he put on 101 runs with Dhananjaya de Silva, who made 60.
Australian bowlers kept coming back with crucial wickets but Asalanka reached his century to the cheers of a raucous home crowd that jumped to their feet to applaud the knock.
Wanindu Hasaranga played a useful cameo of 21 not out as he put together 34 runs for the eighth wicket with Asalanka.
Asalanka finally fell to Cummins and Australia soon wrapped up the innings in 49 overs with two run outs.
In reply, Australia lost skipper Aaron Finch for nought with Karunaratne trapping the opener LBW.
Warner kept his cool and put on 63 runs with Mitchell Marsh, who looked good for his 26 before he fell to Dunith Wellalage’s left-arm spin.
Australia lost Marnus Labuschagne (14) and Alex Carey (19) after they got starts but fell to the Sri Lankan spinners.
The usually attacking Warner held fort to try and grind down the opposition attack as he got Travis Head for company and the two stitched together 58 runs for the fifth wicket.
De Silva bowled the left-handed Head for 27 and Maheesh Theekshana trapped Glenn Maxwell trapped LBW for one with a successful review after the on-field umpire denied the appeal.
But the big moment came when the left-handed Warner missed out on his ton by one run after getting stumped off de Silva for 99 as the home team celebrated the key wicket.
“If someone had played for David Warner for five or six more overs that could have been a matchwinning partnership,” said Finch.
Cameron Green and Cummins attempted to turn the chase on in a 31-run stand but Vandersay bowled Green.
Cummins departed in the 49th over but Kuhnemann fought till the end before getting out on the final ball.
The final match is on Friday at the same venue.
Originally published as Aussies fall agonisingly short as Sri Lanka celebrates historic cricket win