Finch, Smith help Aus­tralia pass Sri Lanka spin test

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caught at point four balls later. When Starc took an­other wicket soon after, Sri Lanka had slipped from 124 for 2 to 132 for 5, and though Di­nesh Chandi­mal was at the crease through the rest of the in­nings, Sri Lanka could not muster the 250 which might have rep­re­sented a win­ning score.

Starc pros­pered on a cus­tom­ary full length, and each of his wick­ets were the re­sult of draw­ing bats­men into drives. He knocked down Kusal Per­era’s off stump in the first over, got Dhanan­jaya de Silva mis­cu­ing a slower ball to claim his 100th wicket, then had Milinda Siri­war­dana out with a sim­i­lar de­liv­ery. Faulkner bowled his cut­ters more lib­er­ally and gen­er­ally pitched the ball on a length. Starc did not con­cede a bound­ary through his ten overs. Faulkner was ex­em­plary at the death, giv­ing away only 17 in his last three overs, and claim­ing two scalps in them.

Smith’s 58 pro­vided the chase its mid­dle-overs sub­stance, but it had been Finch who made quick ground in the early overs, so as to give the mid­dle or­der a wide mar­gin for er­ror. He clubbed his sec­ond ball for six, and did not slow his rate of scor­ing while the field­ing re­stric­tions were in ef­fect even though balls be­gan to mis­be­have early on. By the end of the 10th over, he had hit seven fours and two sixes in a score of 48 from 36 balls.

Finch de­parted in some­what con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances - when Amila Aponso, the debu­tant left-arm spin­ner, had one leap away from the bat off a full length. The ball ended up in the hands of An­gelo Mathews at slip, but such was the turn on of­fer, that it is pos­si­ble it got there with no in­ter­fer­ence from Finch’s bat.

What­ever the case, Smith took the chase by the col­lar from then on­wards, but his was a stead­ier in­nings. Aponso beat his bat vir­tu­ally every over, but Smith kept out the straighter de­liv­er­ies and scored off the shorter ones. He was dropped on 15 when, at slip, Mathews failed to hold a catch that had de­flected off the wick­et­keeper’s pad. The re­main­der of his out­side edges landed safely away from field­ers. It was not the most flu­ent in­nings Smith has played, but it was the kind of sur­face on which sur­vival was laud­able enough.

Aponso was the most ac­cu­rate of Sri Lanka’s bowlers, and un­lucky to fin­ish with only one wicket from his 10 overs. His col­leagues left their surge too late. Dil­ruwan Per­era had Smith caught at short leg, but the score was al­ready 190. He took two more wick­ets to­wards the fin­ish, and Lak­shan San­dakan one more to add to the ear­lier wicket of Matthew Wade. Aus­tralia lost four for 32 through that late pe­riod, but that was not a dra­matic enough slump to threaten the re­sult.

Sri Lanka’s top-scorer Di­nesh Chandi­mal had ear­lier brought a Test-match zen to the first ODI, as he hit an un­beaten 80 from 113 de­liv­er­ies. He scored in sin­gles and twos ex­clu­sively to be­gin with, and was con­tent to go with­out a bound­ary un­til his 46th de­liv­ery. The ma­jor­ity of his runs came square of the wicket; the cut, sweep, dab and leg­side flick the more favoured among his strokes. The Aus­tralia seam­ers in­creas­ingly rolled their fin­gers over the ball as the in­nings pro­gressed, but Chandi­mal was largely wise to their changes of pace - though his shots did also find in­field­ers more of­ten than he would have liked. He hit only three bound­aries in his in­nings.

Mendis was the re­cip­i­ent of much good dur­ing his 67 from 95 balls. He was dropped on 14, sur­vived a close lbw shout on 25, was al­most run out twice, and mishit plenty of his shots. How­ever, un­like Chandi­mal, Mendis didn’t com­pletely omit the more ex­u­ber­ant strokes. His most mem­o­rable shots was a re­gal lofted straight drive off Moises Hen­riques, and a lofted leg­side flick off Faulkner.

Be­yond these two half-cen­turies, three oth­ers made bit­part con­tri­bu­tions to the score. Til­lakaratne Dil­shan made 22 be­fore fall­ing to the Dilscoop. Siri­war­dana hit 19 off 26 in a 41-run stand with Chandi­mal, and This­ara Per­era made 21 off 14 in the death overs. Aus­tralia’s seam­ers were dif­fi­cult to get away at the fin­ish, con­ced­ing only 41 in the fi­nal six overs, but much of the dam­age had been done ear­lier on. — Cricinfo.

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