Brett Lee and Clint McKay combined with bat and ball to steer Australia to a 16 run ODI finals win over Sri Lanka at Adelaide last night.
The Australians dodged a major bullet after posting a mere 231 on a 300-plus wicket.
So the locals won the finals series 2-1 – the first time since the Tri Series started in 1990 that Australia had won after losing the second final.
In the three previous played-out finals against South Africa in 1994 and 1998, and Sri Lanka in 2006, Australia lost the first but won the next two.
Having been sent in, Australia started well, with David Warner and Matt Wade posting a solid 76-run opening stand off 84, with Warner’s 48 taking his finals tally to 311 at 103.67, the highest in the history of ODIs in Australia.
But Australia’s brittle batting was bared once again, with the dismissals of stand-in skipper Shane Watson (19), Mike Hussey run out for 1, David Hussey (10), Peter Forrest (3), Dan Christian (19), and Nathan Lyon on ODI debut for a duck.
Enter Lee and McKay at 7-177, with Australia in serious trouble.
They added 40 precious runs to be parted on 217. Lee finished with 32 off 54, McKay 28 off 32.
But the way the Sri Lankans started their 232 chase, it looked as thought they’d reach their target with 20 overs to spare.
That’s where Lee and McKay again kicked in.
Between them they knocked over the Sri Lankan quality quartet of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, and Dinesh Chandimal for a sum total of 47.
The same quartet amassed 254 between them in the second final to force the decider.
McKay finished with a career-best 5-28 to rightfully win man-of-the-match. Lee claimed 3-59, taking his career haul to 369 wickets at a miserly 23.06 apiece.
Watson also played his part with 2-13 off 7, dismissing Lahiru Thirlimanne (71) and Upul Tharanga (30), Sri Lanka’s two top scorers.
So the Australians confirmed their world number one ODI status, despite losing four games out of seven to Sri Lanka in this series.
There was a lot of magnificent cricket played over the three finals, but watched by sparse crowds, averaging 11,000 a game.
The season was too long. It should have finished early February, not early March.
Sports fans have understandably been in football mode for the last two weeks.
The finals deserved better, Cricket Australia.