Dean Jones illuminated the one-day game. He enlivened every match he played with his combination of aggressive batting and inventive shot-making.
Despite David Hussey’s fifth half-century of the series, and Dan Christian’s hat-trick, Sri Lanka toughed it out at the MCG last night to beat Australia by nine runs to pinch a final’s berth from India.
This was no fluke win by the Sri Lankans.
It’s the third in four meetings and should put the wind up the Australians for the best-of-three finals starting on Sunday at the Gabba.
Australia will have skipper Michael Clarke back on duty after missing three games with an on-going back problem. But will he be match fit against a side that’s on a roll?
Australia won the first of the four meetings this summer by five wickets.
Since then it’s been all Sri Lanka by eight wickets with 101 deliveries in hand, three wickets with four deliveries left, and nine runs in the final over.
But last night came at a potentially high cost with the very talented all-rounder Angelo Mathews (calf) and Thisara Perera (back) in danger of missing Sunday after bowling just five overs between them.
It was to Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene’s credit he managed his attack around them, and still won.
Australia’s the top ranked ODI side in the world, but have batting problems with the exception of David Hussey. He has been outstandingly consistent with scores of 61*, 27, 72, 59, 26*, 40*, 54, and 74 to lead all-comers by the length of the straight.
Series stats from eight innings, with three exceptions:
– David Hussey (Australia) – 487 runs with a top score of 74, at an average of 97.40
– Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka) – 383 – 81 – 63.83.
– Virat Kohli (India) – 373 – 133* – 53.29.
– Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka) – 372 – 160* – 53.14.
– Michael Clarke (Australia) – 177 – 72 – 44.25 from 4 digs
– Gautam Gambhir (India) – 308 – 92 – 44.00 from 7 digs.
– Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) – 297 – 85 – 42.43.
– Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka) – 206 – 64 – 41.20.
– Peter Forrest (Australia) – 247 – 104 – 41.17 from 6 digs.
– Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – 308 – 105 – 38.50.
Those stats tell the story with five Sri Lankans, three from Australia and two from India.
Which begs the question who will be dropped from the Australian team to make way for the skipper?
On paper, it would have to be pace bowler Clint McKay, leaving Australia a bowler short.
But the openers David Warner and Matt Wade are the biggest problem. Warner’s averaging 33.62, Wade 34.87, but as a pair their opening stands have averaged just 19. As exciting as the two lefties are, they just can’t click together.
Christian was a candidate for drinks waiter until last night when he became only the fourth Australian to snare a ODI hat-trick after Bruce Reid in 1986, Anthony Stuart in 1997, and Brett Lee in 2003.
In the wash-up Christian posted a career-best 5-31 off nine, with James Pattinson returning from injury with a vengeance to claim 4-51 off his ten.
Can’t wait for the possible return of teenager Pat Cummins from injury for five ODIs in England in June-July.
As of now Pattinson’s averaging 18.12 in Tests with the ball, and 18.71 in ODIs – Christian’s averaging 20.30 in ODIs – with Cummins 16.71 in Tests, and 30 in ODIs. Throw in expressman Lee, if fit, with Ben Hilfenhaus on standby, and any opponent is in for a torrid time.
A special salute to Sri Lankan slinger Lasith Malinga.
He’s the only ODI bowler to grab three career hat-tricks in 2007 and twice last year, But the first was a double hat-trick with 4 wickets in 4 balls. That record belongs exclusively to Malinga, as well.
But last night he bowled a jaffa, the delivery of the match, uprooting Shane Watson’s middle stump when he was set on 65. It was unplayable.
The ‘Slinger’ could well be the one to determine the outcome of the finals.