Melbourne, Feb 17: Riding on middle order batsman Asela Gunaratne’s maiden half-century, Sri Lanka beat Australia by five wickets in a thrilling first Twenty20 International cricket match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground here on Friday.
With the win, the islanders have taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Chasing a modest 169, the visitors recovered from the early loss of skipper Upul Tharanga (0) as opener Niroshan Dickwella (30) and Dilshan Munaweera (44) put on 74 runs for the second wicket to set the tone.
Dickwella, who smashed four boundaries and a six in his 25-ball knock, however fell prey to leg-spinner Adam Zampa, when the southpaw attempted to accelerate after the field restrictions were over.
Munaweera, who consumed 29 deliveries and struck six boundaries, also perished soon after, leaving the Lankans at 91/3 midway into their innings.
The 31-year-old Gunaratne was then joined by Milinda Siriwardana (15) in the middle and the duo added 60 runs for the fourth wicket to raise their hopes of a win.
Gunaratne, who fired seven boundaries during his 37-ball knock, took the attack to the opposition with some exquisite shots on both sides of the wicket as the Australians failed to create any chances.
With the Lankans comfortably placed at 151/3 in the 18th over, Gunaratne perished in his hurry of finishing the game quickly when he was stumped by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off tweaker Ashton Turner.
Two balls later, Turner struck again by dismissing Siriwardana to derail the chase for the visitors.
Chamara Kapugedera (10 not out) and all-rounder Seekkuge Prasanna (8 not out) then kept their nerves to complete the formalities as the Lankans clinched the nail-biting tie with a boundary off Kapugedera’s willow to the covers.
Earlier, skipper Aaron Finch (43) and Michael Klinger (38) gave the hosts a perfect 76-run opening stand to lay the foundation for a massive score after being sent in to bat.
One-down batsman Travis Head also contributed with 31 runs while Ashton Turner (18) and Moises Henriques (17) chipped in with useful cameos to post 168/6 in their 20 overs.
Veteran pacer Lasith Malinga once again emerged as the most successful bowler for the Lankans with figures of 2/29 while medium pacer Vikum Sanjaya, left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan and Man-of-the-Match Gunaratne chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Brief Scores: Australia 168/6 (Aaron Finch 43, Michael Klinger 38, Travis Head 31, Lasith Malinga 2/29) lose to Sri Lanka 172/5 (Asela Gunaratne 52, Dilshan Munaweera 44, Niroshan Dickwella 30, Ashton Turner 2/12) by 5 wickets.