Warner hammers a big hundred; Sri Lanka puts up a gallant fight after being down for the count

Australia survived a Sri Lankan scare at the Gabba here on Sunday. A rather one-sided first final was transformed into a slug-fest by Mahela Jayawardene's never-say-die men.

Down for the count at 144 for six in the 31st over, chasing a daunting 322, the Lankans roared back causing panic in the Australian ranks. Upul Tharanga (60), Nuwan Kulasekara (73), and Dhamikka Prasad (31 not out) thwacked the ball through the gaps or blasted the sphere over the ropes and suddenly the impossible appeared possible.

Eventually, some tight medium pace bowling under pressure by Shane Watson — three for 33 off 9.2 overs —fetched Australia a hard-earned 15-run win. There was more relief than joy in the Aussie camp. Australia leads the best-of-three Commonwealth Bank ODI series finals 1-0. The second game will be played in Adelaide on Tuesday.

Earlier, aggressive opener David Warner conjured an 157-ball 163. The left-hander was adjudged Man of the Match.

Yet, his innings was almost upstaged by the stirring Sri Lankan fight-back. The injury-hit team — key all-rounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera were not fit for the game — displayed tremendous resolve.

Kulasekara's assault

Kulasekara — reprieved on 24 and 58 by Watson at a squarish fine-leg and 'keeper Mathew Wade — hammered the Aussie bowling. He swung a lacklustre Ben Hilfenhaus for the maximum, powered the expensive James Pattinson over mid-on and mid-off and slog-swept David Hussey for a couple of sixes.

He was finally held at extra-cover off Hussey but the explosive 104-run seventh wicket partnership in just 70 balls between Kulasekara and Tharanga had brought Sri Lanka back in the hunt.

Playing only because of injuries to key players, the left-handed Tharanga batted with poise and a calm head. He straight drove, cut and flicked with flair before caught in the deep off Watson.

The valiant Prasad — he flat-batted Brett Lee for a tremendous six over covers — remained unbeaten. Sri Lanka needed 16 runs off the final over after Lee sent down a terrific penultimate over conceding just four runs. Off the second ball, last man Lasith Malinga was held at deep square-leg off Watson.

With the match continuing in the climactic stages under a slight drizzle, it was not easy for the bowlers to grip the ball. This explains the number of full tosses sent down by the Aussies. There was bounce in the surface but not as much seam movement as in the earlier games.

Old soldiers never die and Lee breathed fire at the start of the innings removing Jayawardene with the one that moved away and an attacking Tillakaratne Dilshan with a delivery that was angled in. Dinesh Chandimal was done in by extra bounce while attempting to cut part-time off-spinner David Hussey.

The free-stroking Kumar Sangakkara (40) — his square-drive off Pattinson was flowing — misjudged the length of a Lee delivery to be caught at mid-off.

Operating with common sense, David Hussey dented the line-up further at the other end; he went round the wicket to find the edge of the left-handed Lahiru Thirimanne and prised out Farveez Maharoof with a flighted delivery.

Powerful hitting

Earlier, Warner struck the ball with tremendous power after Michael Clarke won the toss. This, though, was no slam-bang effort from the left-hander. He batted through the innings and was dismissed only off the final delivery when he missed a pull off paceman Prasad.

Warner's maiden ODI hundred was a potent blend of aggressive stroke-play and periods of responsible batting.

The pocket powerhouse executed some stunning drives in the `V' when the ball was pitched up. And when it was even a fraction short, he pulled ruthlessly.

Malinga banged one in and Warner dismissed him beyond the ropes. Then, the slinger was bludgeoned straight past the ropes.

Warner has limitations in footwork but possesses tremendous hand-eye coordination. With his reflexes, strong wrists and the ability to get under the ball for the big blows — his short stature is his ally here — he can inflict severe damage.

Big stand

The opening partnership of 136 in 24 overs between Watson and Matthew Wade (64) provided the momentum.

In a ploy, that had a psychological bearing on the game, Wade launched into Malinga in the initial overs. A rasping cover-drive was followed by a whipped six over mid-wicket when the slinger attempted a slower ball.

The wicket-keeper batsman fell to a stunning one-handed catch at long-on. Herath leapt and somehow managed to hold the ball — that appeared to be clearing him — with his left hand.

Watson's uppish flick off Maharoof was was picked up at square-leg. Not much later, Herath beat David Hussey in flight to hold a return catch.

Clarke (37) came up with a delightful cameo, using his feet to cut and drive through the gaps before miscuing a pull off Malinga.

Towards the end of the innings, Michel Hussey produced a couple of meaty blows that cleared the ropes.

The Sri Lankan bowling was ordinary and Malinga had an off-day. That occasional off-spinner Dilshan was the best bowler on view from the side tells the story.

Scoreboard

Australia: D. Warner b Prasad 163 (157b, 13x4, 2x6), M. Wade c Herath b Kulasekara 64 (72b, 4x4, 1x6), S. Watson c Thirimanne b Maharoof 21 (25b, 1x4), D. Christian c Sangakkara b Prasad 10 (8b, 2x4), D. Hussey c & b Herath 1 (3b), M. Clarke c Jayawardene b Malinga 37 (25b, 5x4), M. Hussey (not out) 19 (10b, 2x6); Extras (lb-1, w-5) 6; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 321.

Fall of wickets: 1-136 (Wade), 2-186 (Watson), 3-223 (Christian), 4-224 (D. Hussey), 5-288 (Clarke), 6-321 (Warner).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 8-0-74-1, Kulasekara 10-0-60-1, Maharoof 9-0-64-1, Dilshan 9-0-35-0, Prasad 7-0-51-2, Herath 7-0-36-1.

Sri Lanka: M. Jayawardene c Wade b Lee 14 (14b, 2x4), T. Dilshan b Lee 27 (22b, 5x4), K. Sangakkara c Watson b Lee 42 (49b, 4x4), D. Chandimal c Pattinson b D. Hussey 14 (27b, 1x4), L. Thirimanne c Wade b D. Hussey 14 (30b), U. Tharanga c D. Hussey b Watson 60 (67b, 3x4), F. Maharoof c Christian b D. Hussey 8 (14b), N. Kulasekara c Doherty b D. Hussey 73 (43b, 7x4, 3x6), D. Prasad (not out) 31 (21b, 2x4, 1x6), R. Herath c Doherty b Watson 5 (5b), L. Malinga c M. Hussey b Watson 1 (6b); Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-11, nb-2) 17; Total (in 49.2 overs) 306.

Fall of wickets: 1-39 (Jayawardene), 2-52 (Dilshan), 3-93 (Chandimal), 4-115 (Sangakkara), 5-125 (Thirimanne), 6-144 (Maharoof), 7-248 (Kulasekara), 8-285 (Tharanga), 9-301 (Herath).

Australia bowling: Lee 9-1-59-3, Hilfenhaus 4-0-46-0, Pattinson 5-0-49-0, Watson 9.2-0-33-3, Doherty 10-0-39-0, D. Hussey 8-0-43-4, Clarke 4-0-33-0.

Man of the Match: David Warner

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