KANDY: Glenn Maxwell guided injury-hit Australia to a thrilling two-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the series-opening one-day cricket international on Tuesday with an entertaining, unbeaten 80 from 51 deliveries.
Batting at No. 7, Maxwell rescued the Australian innings after walking to the crease with the total at 189-5 and 93 runs required from 84 deliveries. He worked with the lower order and hastened the victory with three-quarters of his runs coming from boundaries, which included six sixes and six fours.
Australia needed 12 runs off the last two overs in a revised target and Maxwell ensured his team secured the win with nine balls to spare when he plundered Dushmantha Chameera for back-to-back sixes.
Sri Lanka’s spinners had been on target, particularly leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who picked up four wickets, but Maxwell toyed with the bowling. He cleared the boundary seemingly with no trouble at all. And his excellent running between wickets put pressure on Sri Lankan fielders.
With Maxwell on the rampage pulling and reverse sweeping at will, the bowlers were under pressure and started erring with their lengths.
After starts from Aaron Finch (44), Steve Smith (53) and Marcus Stoinis (44) in the top order, Maxwell dominated two crucial lower-order partnerships to get Australia over the line.
He’d been given out LBW to Chamika Karunaratne on 10 but successfully overturned the decision after reviewing. From then on, there was no stopping him as he brought up his 23rd ODI half-century with a reverse hit for four.
Australia has been slowed due to injuries. Mitchell Marsh (calf) and Mitchell Starc (finger) are not available for the match, while fast bowlers Kane Richardson (hamstring) and Sean Abbott (finger) have returned to Australia.
When Sri Lanka set a target of 301, the hosts were favorites to win as no team had chased that many runs at the venue. However, Australia’s target was revised after a rain interruption and the visitors finished on 282-8 from 42.3 overs.
Three half-centuries enabled Sri Lanka to get to its total of 300. Openers Pathum Nissanka (56) and Danushka Gunathilaka (55) put on 115 before being dismissed in quick succession.
Kusal Mendis then anchored the innings, making an unbeaten 86 that came off 87 deliveries with eight fours and a six. They lost three wickets for 19 runs as Australia rallied but a 77-run stand between Mendis and Charith Asalaka (37) helped them to come out of the slump.
“Our bowling was not up to the mark as we sent down too many short balls and full tosses,” Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka said. “They batted well and credit to their batsmen. They read the situation well. Good effort by us to put up 300 on the board and I thought it was a winning score. But then our bowling was poor today. We need to sit down, look at our strategies and bounce back in the next game.”
Australia skipper Aaron Finch said Maxwell’s knock was “fantastic.”
“He was very smart and took some calculated risks. Although we put up decent partnerships, we were always playing catch up as we kept losing wickets,” Finch said. “Then Maxwell put us right back in the game. Steve Smith batted well too. Great to start off the series with a win.”
The Australians opened the tour with a 2-1 victory in the Twenty20 series and will be aiming to secure the five-match ODI section in Colombo before the two-test series starts June 29 in Galle.