Lanka run Aussies close
With India's exit from the tournament, despite the first CB Series final being played on a Sunday, The Gabba stands were not even half full. So it didn't come as a surprise when some of the 12,000-odd spectators in attendance started trickling out of the stadium when Farveez Maharoof became David Hussey's third victim of the day.
As much as they wanted to reach home before the thunderstorm broke out, they were pretty sure that with Sri Lanka reeling at 144 for six in the 31st over, the match was well and truly over. With opener Upul Tharanga, forced to bat at No 6 as Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera were not available, and the long tail awaiting their turn, Sri Lanka wouldn't have even thought of getting close to Australia's gargantuan total of 321 for six.Till then, despite Brett Lee's ferocious spell at the start of Sri Lanka's chase, it was always going to be David Warner's night. The left-handed opener, who had more or less struggled through the eight league games, batted out of his skin to score a gigantic 163, his maiden ODI ton, before being dismissed off the last ball of Australia's innings.
So, when Maharoof holed out to Dan Christian at mid-wicket, even though Warner wasn't on the field due to a sore groin, it was set to be his night. Then came the dramatic turnaround like the climax in a Bollywood flick.
When all the top Lankan batsmen had failed to combat Australia's bowlers, Nuwan Kulasekara came out with all guns blazing and waged such an assault that he brought Sri Lanka back into the game in the next ten overs.
No doubt Kulasekara is no mug with the bat, but to see him hit the likes of James Pattinson and Brett Lee for boundaries at will came as a shock not only for the Australians but also his own teammates. The five overs of batting Powerplay - 36th to the 40th - fetched Sri Lanka a whopping 68 runs. With 10 overs left, Sri Lanka, barring the wickets column, had drawn level with the Australia score.
Those extra wickets Sri Lanka lost in the first half of the chase proved vital. Despite Kulasekara's 43-ball 73 and Dhammika Prasad's unbeaten 31 off 21, Sri Lanka fell short by 15 runs to give Australia the advantage going into Tuesday's second final.Perhaps due to the light drizzle that started around the 35th over or the pressure that Kulasekara and Tharanga built with their sturdy knocks, the Australian bowlers started spraying the ball. And once the Sri Lanka batsmen grew in confidence, they didn't spare good deliveries either, Prasad's six over cover off Lee a prime example.
In the end, Prasad was left stranded as, with 20 runs required off the last two overs, Lee bowled an impeccable 49th over, conceding just four runs. And last man Lasith Malinga holed out the second ball of the final over to Mike Hussey at deep square-leg, Australia heaved a sigh of relief.
Will Australia batsmen continue to tear apart a lacklustre Sri Lankan bowling attack in Adelaide? Or will the Sri Lankans take heart from a spirited fightback and cross the line to stretch the best-of-three finals into the deciding rubber?
Over to Adelaide.