Australia survived an electric spell from leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (4/33) to beat Sri Lanka by three wickets in the second three wickets and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series at R Premadasa Stadium, here on Wednesday.
Veteran wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (26 not out) handled the immense pressure of batting with the tail to secure victory with 13 balls to spare.
Chasing a low total of 125 runs for a win, openers Aaron Finch and David Warner came out intent on powering Australia to victory as quickly as possible. However, Hasaranga weaved some spin magic to turn the tables.
The leg-spinner first took out Finch for a 13-ball 24 when the Aussie skipper hit Danushka Gunathilaka at cover-point and a flighted googly in his next over befuddled Mitchell Marsh, who committed far too early for his sweep and was trapped plumb leg before.
Nuwan Thushara then got one skiddy delivery to hit Steve Smith on the front pad to leave Australia on 58 for 3. Sri Lanka had another spring to their step as David Warner fell to a runout caused by a round of yes-no calls with Glenn Maxwell. Marcus Stoinis threatened to deflate Sri Lanka’s hopes quickly when he took on Hasaranga in the eighth over, but Chameera returned in the ninth over to dismiss his LSG teammate.
Sri Lanka was still hamstrung by the lack of runs on the board but a double-wicket over from Hasaranga in the 12th put them marginally ahead and Australia well under pressure. He first got rid of Maxwell, who chipped a googly to mid-off and then followed Ashton Agar as a leg spinner breached the big bat-pad gateway to knock back the stumps on the next delivery.
Australia was 99 for 7, the required 25 runs now seeming a bit distant. But Wade was able to steady the innings as he received solid support from fast bowler Jhye Richardson. The comfortable required equation meant Wade and Richardson had no reason to hurry or make a forceful attempt at picking the runs and Australia eventually coasted past the finish line in 17.5 overs.
Earlier, Australia won the toss and opted to bowl. With star pacer Mitchell Starc sidelined for the match after suffering a finger injury, Maxwell was given the new ball and struck in the first over.
The Lions stumbled to 7-2 before Charith Asalanka (39) and Kusal Mendis (36) batted together for 9.1 overs, amassing 66 runs for the third wicket to lay a solid platform for Sri Lanka to post a defendable total. But Maxwell ended the partnership in the 12th over with Asalanka skying a ball to Finch.
Mendis’ knock ended in bizarre fashion, departing after falling back into his stumps after being hit in the helmet by a delivery from Jhye Richardson, who came into the team in place of Starc.
Then began the lower-order collapse as Sri Lanka lost five wickets for just 20 runs. Kane Richardson (4/30) and Jhye Richardson (3/26) ran through the line-up at the death as Sri Lanka could only muster 25 runs in the last five overs.
Saturday’s final match in Kandy will be a dead rubber ahead of a five-match ODI series, starting on June 14.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 124/9 in 20 overs (Charith Asalanka 39, Kusal Mendis 36; Kane Richardson 4/30, Jhye Richardson 3/26) lost to Australia 126/7 in 17.5 overs (Matthew Wade 26, Aaron Finch 24; Wanindu Hasaranga 4/33) by 3 wickets