Australia captain Michael Clarke’s inspired start to the year continued when he led his side to victory over Sri Lanka in their tri-series one-day international at the WACA in Perth yesterday.
Man-of-the-match Clarke had an impact with both bat and ball as Australia won by five runs to remain unbeaten after two outings in the triangular tournament.
Australia made 231 from 49.1 overs and in reply Sri Lanka were dismissed for 226 in 49.5 overs, after a last-wicket stand almost snatched an unlikely win for the tourists.
Sri Lanka appeared to do a good job with the ball after captain Mahela Jayawardene won the toss and elected to field, Clarke top-scoring with a polished 57.
Some superb fielding helped the Sri Lanka cause, with a couple of fine catches, highlighted by Nuwan Kulasekara’s brilliantly athletic caught and bowled to remove the dangerous Michael Hussey for 23.
However, last year’s beaten World Cup finalists were not as effective with the bat and they looked headed for certain defeat at 180 for nine, still needing 51 to win, but Angelo Mathews and Dhammika Prasad put on 46 for the last wicket to threaten to snatch an incredible win.
The pair needed 18 to win from the final over and Mathews hit the first two Mitchell Starc deliveries for four and six to narrow the equation to eight from four balls.
Two singles left them chasing six from the last two balls, but Mathews (64) holed out to Daniel Christian on the long-on boundary from the penultimate ball to hand relieved Australia a thrilling victory.
Sri Lanka earlier appeared to be cruising at 61-1, but they suffered a major blow when Kumar Sangakkara was run out for 22 in an ugly mix-up with opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (40).
They found it hard to recover from the loss of their most prolific batsman and Clarke’s inspired season continued when he brought himself on for a rare bowl in the 31st over.
Dinesh Chandimal was on 37 and appeared to be Sri Lanka’s last real hope of victory, but he was trapped leg before wicket by Clarke’s first delivery.
Australia have not lost in six matches — four Tests and two one-day internationals — this year under Clarke, their only defeat a Twenty20 loss to India under the leadership of George Bailey.
The skipper also made 626 runs at 125.20 in the recent 4-0 Test whitewash of India.
His half-century helped Australia recover from the early loss of opener Matthew Wade and Ricky Ponting, both dismissed for 1 as the hosts started poorly to be 26-2.
Opener David Warner blasted 34 from 29 balls, before being bowled by Mathews (2-37), while David Hussey (27) and Dan Christian (33) both made promising starts, but were not able to convert them into substantial totals.
The 56-run partnership between Clarke and Christian for the sixth wicket was the highest of the innings, but tailenders Clint McKay (25) and Mitchell Starc (14) added 32 ultimately valuable runs for the ninth wicket.