Battling Tharanga sets up Sri Lanka as hosts crumble

Published on November 6, 2010   ·   No Comments
by Jamie Pandaram
Any ideas? ... Michael Clarke chats with Shane Watson.

AUSTRALIA slumped to a seventh consecutive defeat as Sri Lanka won their first series here last night, leaving the hosts one final chance in Brisbane tomorrow to taste success before the Ashes series begins.

Ricky Ponting’s side has not won a match in any format since the first Test against Pakistan in July, and will need a vast turnaround at the Gabba to overpower a Sri Lankan outfit already looking like serious World Cup contenders.

Australia were bowled out for 210 chasing a rain-revised 240 from 38 overs at the SCG, and Sri Lanka took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

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”We have had opportunities to win games and we haven’t got there, just all departments are a little bit wanting at the moment,” Ponting said. ”We have to start winning games as the Australian cricket team.”

Opening batsman Upul Tharanga, who lost his family home in a small fishing village on the west coast of Sri Lanka during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, was Sri Lanka’s anchor in the victory. After missing out in the first one-dayer, Tharanga set about proving his value at the top of the order with a composed 86 not out that lead Sri Lanka to 3-213 before two rain delays ended their innings after 41.1 overs, and set Australia an improbable 244 from 39 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis system before the target was set again after a third momentary break.

When Nuwan Kulasekara bowled Cameron White (35 from 43) after he and Steven Smith had compiled 43 runs for the sixth wicket, Sri Lanka had snuffed out any hope of a comeback with Australia 6-155. In the end, the required run rate had surpassed 17 and proved too much for the lower order. Clint McKay was bowled by Lasith Malinga to confirm the inevitable.

Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara said the youngsters who had performed in these two games were likely to be rewarded with World Cup squad places, adding: ”Sri Lanka seems to be in really good hands going into the future.”

Australia’s chase began disastrously when opener Brad Haddin was bowled in the second over by Kulasekara. Ponting, returning to the side after missing the loss in Melbourne, could only manage 10 before being caught in the deep off a pull shot, and Australia were 2-32 in the seventh over.

Shane Watson and Michael Clarke were in ominous form before Muttiah Muralitharan played a hand in both of their dismissals in quick succession. Murali first removed Watson (40 from 44 balls) leg before wicket, and moments later he brilliantly caught Clarke (25 from 30) at third man off Thisara Perera.

Tharanga, dropped by Haddin in the 29th over, and opening partner Tillekeratne Dilshan blazed a 98-run stand punctuated by subtle wrists and soft hands.

Tharanga, 25, has a special connection to his captain. Tharanga’s cricket kit was in the house at the time of the tsunami and never seen again, and Sangakkara replaced all of the gear for him.

United at the crease yesterday at 2-116 after two wickets had fallen for 18 runs, the pair put on 70 runs to post a formidable total.

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