Thisara Perera produced an outstanding all-round performance to help Sri Lanka to a three-run win over Australia in a rain-affected Twenty20 international yesterday, securing a 2-0 victory in the series that sparked animosity between the two sides.
After making a hard-hitting unbeaten 35 in Sri Lanka’s innings of 161-4 — bolstered by Mahela Jayawardene’s 61 not out — Perera bowled a pressure-laden final over to give his team victory under the Duckworth-Lewis system.
Australia needed 18 runs from Perera’s final over to win the match, after being set a revised target of 122 from 15 overs following a lengthy rain delay.
The chase came down to four runs from the last ball, but Perera produced a dot ball, after conceding consecutive boundaries from his two previous deliveries, to take the match and the series.
However, the match ended with angry scenes as players from both teams clashed verbally, even during the traditional congratulatory handshakes.
Sri Lanka were displeased that Australian umpires Simon Fry and John Ward ruled the match should continue after an almost 90-minute rain delay, which left the outfield at the Melbourne Cricket Ground damp and slippery.
The fourth one-day international between the teams in Sydney last week was abandoned in very similar circumstances when Sri Lanka were in a strong position to win both the match and the series. Then, a minor rain shower dampened the outfield causing the umpires to call off the match and costing Sri Lanka the chance to take a winning 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
After that match was abandoned, Australia won the fifth match to tie the series 2-2.
Yesterday, Sri Lanka would have won the match under the Duckworth-Lewis system if the umpires had abandoned the match when rain intervened after the 10th over of Australia’s innings.
At that point, Australia were 60-2 and trailed Sri Lanka by 15 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system.
Sri Lanka’s coach and captain made clear to the umpires their belief that the match should not continue because of the condition of the playing area.
The umpires ruled that play could continue, but, when they did so, five overs had been lost and Australia were set a revised total of 122. That amounted to 62 runs from five overs with eight wickets in hand — an achievable target in the conditions.
Sri Lanka’s anger intensified when Shaun Marsh, who was seen as the key figure in the Australia run chase, edged a ball from Ajantha Mendis to wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal in the first over after the resumption, but was adjudged not out.
Australia took 12 runs from that over in a strong start to their revised run chase, but then took seven and nine from the next two overs to fall behind again.
Their hopes were lifted when they took 16 runs from the second to last over, with George Bailey hitting consecutive boundaries and Marsh hitting a further four from the last ball.
That set up the task of scoring 18 runs from a last over which was packed with drama.
Australia took two from the first ball, but Bailey was dismissed with the second, caught in the deep for 45.
The third ball was a no-ball from which Marsh was caught on the boundary.
Australia took a single from the next ball, before the new batsman, Glenn Maxwell, brought the crowd to its feet when he hit boundaries from the next two deliveries to leave four runs for victory.
Perera was clearly struggling under the pressure, but after a long conference with the senior Sri Lanka players, produced a fast, flat yorker with the last ball which Maxwell was unable to hit.
Marsh was left on 47 not out and Sri Lanka held on to win the match by a narrow margin.
In doing so they claimed a consolation series win after their loss in the Test series and the tied one-day international series.