Chamara Kapugedera smashed a four off the last ball to give Sri Lanka a thrilling five-wicket victory over Australia in their first Twenty20 International at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday (February 17).
The win kept Sri Lanka unbeaten in four T20Is in Australia and came on the back of their 2-1 series win over South Africa last month.
The pulsating win was made possible by a dashing 52 off 37 balls by Asela Gunaratne, who was named man of the match. Gunaratne slammed seven fours to share in a decisive 60-run stand with Milinda Siriwardana to put the Sri Lankans just 18 runs short of victory with 17 balls remaining.
It was a tense finish with Aaron Finch, the Australian captain, making fielding changes before every ball to prevent Sri Lanka from getting home. But it was Kapugedera who stood up to the pressure and slammed the final delivery of Andrew Tye, the paceman, through the covers to the boundary rope for the winning hit.
The win put Sri Lanka 1-0 up in the series with two matches to be played in Geelong on Sunday and Adelaide on Wednesday.
For a time it looked as though the Australians, playing without their leading stars, Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all on tour in India, would keep Sri Lanka at bay. The home side posted a competitive total of 168 for 6 off their 20 overs with Finch smashing two sixes and two fours in his 43 off 34 balls. Finch shared in an opening stand of 76 with Michael Klinger.
Klinger, making his debut at the age of 36 after starring with Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, hammered 38 off 32 balls with four boundaries.
Lasith Malinga, who has played virtually no cricket for nearly a year due to injuries, was an influential figure taking two wickets in two balls and taking two catches. Malinga (2 for 29) claimed the wickets of Travis Head for 31 off 24 balls and Ashton Turner, the debutant, for 18 off 13 balls, both caught by Seekkugge Prasanna at deep mid-wicket.
Pat Cummins, the paceman, struck with the last ball of his opening over getting Upul Tharanga, the Sri Lankan captain, to edge to wicketkeeper Tim Paine for a duck in the first over of the Sri Lanka innings.
Adam Zampa, the legspinner, claimed the big wicket of Niroshan Dickwella for 30 off 25 balls. Dickwella, who slammed four fours and a six, looked to flick Zampa over mid-wicket only to lob a leading edge to Klinger at short third man in the ninth over.
Dilshan Munaweera then smashed a breezy 44 off 29 balls with six fours before he hit a short ball from Zampa to mid-wicket where Finch took a head-high catch. However, Gunaratne took charge and his half-century turned the tide to set up a victory for the Sri Lankans.