Jun 12, 2022

Shanaka's 25-ball 54* scripts incredible victory for SL

Dasun Shanaka made a furious late charge at a total that always seemed beyond Sri Lanka, crashing sixes over midwicket, smoking fours down the ground, and through cover, batting desperately to bring his team some joy out of the series.

There was a bit of luck, but not that much. A wide that shouldn't have been called, maybe. Australia's bowlers missing their lengths a little more often than they usually would.

But in the presence of packed and uproarious Pallekele crowd, Shanaka hunted down 75 off the last five overs in the company of Chamika Karunaratne, who occasionally produced big hits himself, but was more the captain's hype man. Shanaka had hit only six off his first 12 balls, but then went into supernova mode, blasting 48 off his next 13 deliveries, taking Josh Hazlewood apart, then Jhye Richardson, then Kane Richardson in the final over, from which 19 had been required.

The last over

As good as the two previous overs had been for Sri Lanka, it didn't seem like they'd make it in the last one. Shanaka is not particularly good at crashing balls through the offside (deep midwicket and down the ground are his areas). But then the pressure of Shanaka's outrageous hitting in the previous two overs got to Kane. Or so you'd surmise.

He bowled two clear off-side wides first up, which brought the requirement down to 17 off the last over, essentially. Then he bowled two decent deliveries, one of which was hit to sweeper cover, and a slower ball that Sri Lanka's batters scrambled a bye off.

But with 15 needed off the last four, the real magic began for Sri Lanka. Shanaka slashed a slightly overpitched wide ball for four past point - his very first boundary of the innings in that region. Then, when Kane missed a straight yorker, he pummelled him down the ground, easily beating long-off.

Next was the shot that, for the first time in the chase, seemed to put Sri Lanka on top. A low full toss, walloped into the sightscreen behind the bowler's head.

Richardson was flustered. He bowled a wide to give the win away. The batters ran a bye just to be safe.

The Pallekele crowd was already in raptures.

The two previous overs

Where Shanaka really got into his work was against Hazlewood. Sri Lanka needed 58 off 17 balls when Shanaka got the strike. Then he put a quasi-miracle into motion. Two big sixes to start - one over deep midwicket, one over wide long-on. Two fours to follow, through the covers, then down the ground. Hazlewood missed his length on all of those deliveries.

The next over, bowled by Jhye Richardson, started with a six, as Jhye tried a slower one, but again missed his length, and was bashed by Shanaka over midwicket. Two fours were to follow here, with Shanaka walloping through midwicket again, after Karunaratne crashed one through deep cover.

Perhaps the most controversial moment of the match came when umpire Kumar Dharmasena called a wide off what would have been the last delivery of the over, but which had passed inside the tramlines with the batter (Shanaka) taking a regular guard. Shanaka had left the bowlers no option but to chance this line though.

SL's top order makes moderate headway

It wasn't a spectacular start, but Sri Lanka's top five had at least put their team in a position in which a mild miracle was possible. They made 49 for 1 in the powerplay, for example, which isn't quite enough to keep up with the required rate, but almost. By the end of the 12th over, Sri Lanka needed 82 off 48 balls, with seven wickets in hand, which seemed tough, but not impossible.

They'd lose three wickets rapidly from there, but the runs the top four made (Danushka Gunathilaka 15 off 12, Pathum Nissanka 27 off 25, Charith Asalanka 29 off 19, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 17 off 13) helped set the hosts up. Well, sort of.

Australia rampage through the first nine overs

But then, Australia had bossed the early parts of this match so completely, it seemed impossible that Sri Lanka could pull off a consolation win.

The first over, bowled by Karunaratne, went for just four runs. Then Aaron Finch and David Warner exploded. Finch went first, crashing Dushmantha Chameera for two fours, then hitting Maheesh Theekshana for consecutive ones. Warner started making quick runs too, hitting through the covers with particular relish.

Theekshana got Finch for 29 off 20 eventually. But Australia still motored to 82 for 1 at the end of the ninth over.

Stoinis wallops Australia to a big total

Australia's innings didn't just have a big start, it also had a massive finish. They'd been 117 for 4 at the end of the 15th over, before Marcus Stoinis and his huge biceps made a dramatic entrance. He pounded Praveen Jayawickrama for a six and two fours in the space of three deliveries, eventually picking up 38 off 23 balls.

Matthew Wade and Steve Smith then began to attack, taking 11 off the 18th over, 11 off the 19th, and 16 off the last.

All up, Australia had hit 59 off the last five overs. Most times, this should have been a definitive final burst.

(espncricinfo.com)

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