Kusal Mendis hit an unbeaten match-winning 69 and skipper Dasun Shanaka blasted 35 as Sri Lanka won the fifth and final T20I against Australia by five wickets on Sunday to prevent a series whitewash.
Kusal Mendis hit an unbeaten match-winning 69 and skipper Dasun Shanaka blasted 35 as Sri Lanka won the fifth and final Twenty20 against Australia by five wickets on Sunday to prevent a series whitewash. The home side won all four previous games, three of them convincingly, and when skipper Aaron Finch won the toss and batted they were eyeing a big total. But they were exposed early on by some impressive Sri Lankan bowling. Australia struggled to 58 for three off 10 overs before late fireworks from Matthew Wade (43 off 27 balls) and Daniel Sams (18 off 15) ensured a competitive 154 for six.
With nothing to lose, Sri Lanka were up to the task.
Mendis and Shanaka shared an 83-run stand to send the game to the wire with nine needed off the last over from Kane Richardson, which they achieved with a ball to spare in a thrilling finale.
“The boys played really well throughout the series,” said Shanaka. “There was a clear statement that when it comes to the World Cup (in Australia this year) we will be really prepared.”
Sri Lanka batted without fear early in the run chase, slapping 21 in the first three overs.
But it was a risky approach and Pathum Nissanka holed out to Glenn Maxwell off Richardson for 13 then debutant Kamil Mishara was run out for one in the same over.
Charith Asalanka made a quickfire 20 before Janith Liyanage was also run out for eight after an inexplicable miscommunication with Mendis to leave them at 71 for four after nine overs.
But Mendis was batting beautifully and with Shanaka steadied the ship to move within 41 runs off the final five overs, bringing up his sixth career half-century off 43 balls.
They reduced the gap to nine off the last over.
Shanaka hit a two then a huge six, but in a dramatic finish was then out before Richardson went off with a hamstring injury. It left Daniel Sams to bowl the last two balls with Chamika Karunaratne getting the winning run.
“I think it’s been a fantastic series for players individually,” said Finch. “To keep growing as a team has been fantastic as well.
“Sri Lanka are a very dangerous side,” he added. “To win four games in a row was really good, to win five in a row really is tough in a format of the game that can be so fickle at times.”
Earlier, Sri Lanka bowled impressively to stymie Australia.
Under pressure to get the scoreboard moving, Finch swung his bat at Dushmantha Chameera in the fourth over and was caught for eight by Lahiru Kumara — another failure for the captain.
Ben McDermott soon followed, out for three after slogging at Praveen Jayawickrama to leave Australia on 13 for two off five overs.
Josh Inglis and Maxwell got the scoreboard moving before the dangerous Inglis suffered a blow to the helmet from Chameera. He was fine, but a replay showed the ball clipped his glove on the way through and he was given out caught and bowled after a fiery 23.
Australia crawled to the half-way mark at 58 for three before Kumara bagged the key wickets of Marcus Stoinis (17) and Maxwell (29) in the same over, leaving it to Wade and Sams to hit out and add vital late runs.