Seamer Chamika Karunaratne claimed career-best figures of 3-47 as Sri Lanka evened the five-match ODI series against Australia with a 26-run win on Thursday.
Chasing a revised target of 216 in 44 overs, Australia were bowled out for 189 with more than five overs remaining to level the series at 1-1.
Karunaratne led the way for Sri Lanka as he tested the Australian batsmen with clever changes of pace. He was well backed up by Dushmantha Chameera, who finished with 2-19.
“I was asking myself why I wasn´t contributing more to the team. Glad my hundred percent was there today when we had to square the series,” Karunaratne said. “We had got lot of planning going ahead of the game and I was trying to figure out what the batsmen was trying to do and then I had to come up with a counter move. It all went very well for us.”
Sri Lanka was without their key leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga who was ruled out with a groin injury. Youngster Dunith Wellalage and part-time spinner Dhananjaya de Silva were handy with their spin, claiming two wickets apiece.
The turning point of the game was when Karunaratne dismissed Glenn Maxwell. The middle order batter was playing spin so well and had raced to 30 off 25 balls with five fours, before Karunaratne tested Maxwell with a short ball which he tried to pull but didn´t get the execution right and was caught at point.
Karunaratne´s brilliance saw wicketkeeper Alex Carey run out in the same over and Australia were down to the tail and there was not much resistance as Chameera cleaned up the lower order.
Australia have been forced to scrape the barrel given the number of injuries to their bowlers. The tourists were forced to airlift Travis Head and Matthew Kuhnemann from Hambantota (225 kilometers from Kandy) where Australia `A´ were playing an unofficial test match against Sri Lanka `A´. Marcus Stonis, Kane Richardson and Sean Abbott have returned home from the tour due to injuries while Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Marsh and Ashton Agar are remaining on tour while nursing injuries hoping to be fit for the tail end of the series.
Virtually playing with a second string attack, test captain Pat Cummins rose to the occasion with a four-wicket haul to restrict Sri Lanka to 220-9 in 47.4 overs.
Cummins had dismissed Danushka Gunathilaka for 18 and then when Kusal Mendis (36) and Dhananjaya de Silva (34) had added 61 runs for the third wicket, he came back to break the partnership by dismissing de Silva. In his third spell, he dismissed Jeffrey Vandersay and Dunith Wellalage in successive overs. Cummins´ extra pace and bounce tested the Sri Lankans, who never had any momentum in their innings with none of the batsmen able to post a half-century.
Sri Lanka´s innings was halted with 14 deliveries remaining as rain came down but Australia could not reach the revised target.
“Our batters getting starts and not going on was disappointing,” Australian skipper Aaron Finch said. “After every partnership, we lost a wicket and that took the momentum away from us. We thought chasing on these conditions when the wicket is slow was something that we had to work on. We need to keep improving and that´s one area we can be better and today showed it as well. Also not the best fielding display by us tonight.”