Visiting side bowls out Sri Lanka for 212 before fifties from Finch, Bailey sparkle in six-wicket win
John Hastings plucked six wickets before Aaron Finch and George Bailey's attacking half-centuries powered Australia to a series clinching six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the fourth One-Day International in Dambulla on Wednesday (August 31).
Australia rode on Finch's blistering 19-ball 55 and an unbeaten 90 in 85 balls from Bailey to reach 217 for 4 in 31 overs, chasing down the 213-run target and taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Earlier, Hastings’s career-best figures of 6 for 45 helped bowl out Sri Lanka for 212, despite Dhananjaya de Silva's fighting 76, after it had elected to bat upon winning the toss.
It was Finch's blitz at the start that launched Australia against a Sri Lanka attack that missed Angelo Mathews's medium pace after he hurt his calf while batting. Finch, who equalled the record for the fastest fifty by an Australia batsman in ODIs, struck eight fours and three sixes as he carted the Sri Lanka spinners to all parts of the ground.
Sachith Pathirana, the left-arm spinner, then struck thrice in the space of five deliveries to check the visiting side's surge, but only for a brief while. Pathirana got the wickets of Finch and Usman Khawaja, for nought, in his opening over of the innings. He also bowled David Warner for 19 with the first ball of his next over.
Bailey, who registered his 21st ODI fifty, carried the momentum forward as he anchored Australia's chase, his knock laced with 11 fours and a six. He got the perfect partner in Travis Head, who scored 40 in 71 balls, as the two put on 100 runs for the fourth wicket.
Head was trapped lbw by Dilruwan Perera but Matthew Wade, who remained unbeaten on eight, joined Bailey at the crease and hit the winning six.
In the first half, the lack of partnerships hurt Sri Lanka. Mitchell Starc struck in the very first over to have Avishka Fernando, the teenaged debutant, trapped lbw for nought. Hastings soon got Kusal Mendis caught behind for one after a successful review on Australia’s part. Scott Boland, who replaced Josh Hazlewood in Australia's starting XI, joined the charge to have Dinesh Chandimal caught behind to leave Sri Lanka in trouble at 31 for 3.
De Silva, sent off to open the innings following Tillakaratne Dilshan’s retirement, took charge after that, and Mathews then started a rebuilding act, mixing caution and aggression against a persistent attack.
Mathews, who was badly shaken after being hit on the back of his helmet off a Boland bouncer, made a gritty 28 before retiring hurt.
De Silva, whose maiden ODI half-century included nine boundaries, looked a little edgy after Mathews's departure and soon fell after spooning a catch to midwicket off Hastings.
Australia's spinners then got in on the act as Adam Zampa and Head took one wicket each as Sri Lanka slipped further. Pathirana scored a crucial 24-run cameo to help the home side pass the 200-run mark from 165 for 7.
Hastings's double-strike in the 48th over brought him his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs. And that became a six-for after a limping Mathews, who scored 40 in 71 balls eventually, returned to bat in the 48th over but fell off the last ball of the innings.
The victory came as a welcome relief for Australia after its first series whitewash against Sri Lanka in the preceding three-Test series.