CRICKET / The duo's record stand helps Sri Lanka to a stunning victory in the first ODI
Sri Lanka won a stunning one-wicket victory over Australia in their opening One-Day International on Wednesday, courtesy a record-breaking ninth-wicket partnership by Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga.
Looking dead and buried at 107 for eight and chasing Australia's 239 for eight in Melbourne, the Sri Lankans roared home on the back of a sensational 132-run stand from Man-of-the-match Mathews and fast bowler Malinga.
Sri Lanka's astonishing comeback condemned Australia to its sixth successive international defeat and cast a pall over the side, shattered to have thrown away apparent victory to the pair's lusty last-ditch hitting.
Mathews remained unconquered on 77 off 84 balls, spiced with one six and eight fours, while Malinga clobbered his highest one-day score of 56 off 48 balls with two prodigious sixes and six fours.
Malinga was run out with the scores tied and it was left to No. 11 Muttiah Muralitharan to hit a winning four off Shane Watson to claim a famous victory for Sri Lanka.
It looked as though Australia was romping to victory earlier in the innings when debutant left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty claimed four wickets and a brilliant run out to have the Sri Lankans 136 runs away from their target with just two wickets left.
But Mathews and Malinga gradually turned the tide with some power hitting that left stand-in skipper Michael Clarke bemused at how to stop the run flow.
Sri Lanka's innings did not start out well when Tillakaratne Dilshan was out for seven and opening partner Upul Tharanga was run out for three by debutant Doherty.
Doherty claimed a wicket with his second ball in ODI cricket when he had Mahela Jayawardene lbw for 19.
Chamara Silva gave away his wicket skying Doherty to Watson at mid-on and the next ball bowled Kumar Sangakkara for 49 as he left his stumps exposed while attempting to paddle sweep.
It got worse for Sri Lanka with Thisara Perera bowled by Mitchell Johnson for a duck, leaving the tourists flailing at 86 for six in the 19th over.
Sri Lanka's fortunes had dived losing four wickets in 22 balls.
Suraj Randiv was run out for 10 by a throw from the deep from substitute fielder Mitchell Starc and Nuwan Kulasekara became Doherty's fourth victim, lbw for a duck.
Then Malinga joined Mathews at the wicket in a seemingly hopeless cause only for one of international cricket's great recoveries to get underway.
Hussey's fighting knock
Earlier, Mike Hussey top-scored with a fighting unbeaten 71 to steer Australia to 239 for eight off its 50 overs.
Hussey, who has been struggling for form ahead of this month's Ashes series against England, grafted for 91 balls with just one boundary and 40 singles as the anchor of the Australian innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Only Hussey and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, with 49 off 55 balls opening the innings, looked comfortable against the tight Sri Lankan bowling with Perera finishing with five for 46.
Hussey's only boundary of his controlled knock came off his 71st ball faced to reach his half-century. — AFP
Australia: S. Watson c Silva b Malinga 10, B. Haddin c Dilshan b Perera 49, M. Clarke c Sangakkara b Perera 27, M. Hussey (not out) 71, C. White b Perera 0, S. Marsh c Sangakkara b Randiv 31, S. Smith c Sangakkara b Perera 12, M. Johnson b Kulasekara 10, J. Hastings b Perera 16, X. Doherty (not out) 3; Extras (lb-5, b-1, w-4): 10; Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs): 239.
Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-85, 3-88, 4-88, 5-155, 6-178, 7-204, 8-235.
Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 10-0-39-1, Kulasekara 10-0-60-1, Perera 8-0-46-5, Muralitharan 9-0-36-0, Randiv 9-0-35-1, Dilshan 4-0-17-0.
Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga (run out) 3, T. Dilshan c Hussey b Siddle 7, K. Sangakkara b Doherty 49, M. Jayawardene lbw b Doherty 19, C. Silva c Watson b Doherty 4, A. Mathews (not out) 77, T. Perera b Johnson 0, S. Randiv (run out) 10, N. Kulasekara lbw b Doherty 0, L. Malinga (run out) 56, M. Muralitharan (not out) 4; Extras (w-12, b-2): 14; Total (for nine wkts. in 44.2 overs): 243.
Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-19, 3-73, 4-84, 5-84, 6-86, 7-107, 8-107, 9-239.
Australia bowling: Johnson 10-1-68-1, Siddle 8-0-51-1, Watson 6.2-0-39-0, Hastings 6-0-27-0, Doherty 10-1-46-4, Smith 3-0-8-0, Clarke 1-0-2-0 .