A dramatic series of events saw Australia lose from a winning position the rain-curtailed second One-day International game against Sri Lanka by 26 runs at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium here.
After restricting Sri Lanka to a below-par 220/9 in 47.4 overs on Thursday night, Australia looked on course for victory, only for a dramatic series of events leading to the hosts equalising the five-match series 1-1.
In the first match at the same venue, Sri Lanka had put up 300 on the board, although rain played spoilsport as Australia took the game away with a two-wicket win on the DLS method. The hosts' top-three made fifties while Charith Asalanka contributed with a steady 37 before Wanindu Hasaranga helped push his team's total to the 300-mark with a fiery 19-ball 37.
On Thursday night, though, they lacked it. Only three batters made more than 30, with Kusal Mendis top-scoring with 36. They failed to convert good starts into innings of note as Australia struck at regular intervals.
After going wicket-less in the ODI series opener, Australian quick Pat Cummins returned impressive figures of 4/35 in 8.4 overs on the second outing before rain cut short the Sri Lanka innings on 220/9 in 47.4 overs. Among the wickets were debutant Matthew Kuhnemann, and Glenn Maxwell, both accounting for two wickets apiece while Mitchell Swepson chipped in with one scalp.
Kuhnemann made his maiden international outing a memorable one as he drew the first blood for Australia, sending Pathum Nissanka back for 14 after inducing an edge which was caught behind by wicketkeeper Alex Carey. His other victim of the day was Chamika Karunaratne, who tossed the ball high up in the sky only to be caught by Cummins at long-off. The debutant also took two catches, including a sharp one in the deep of opener Danushka Gunathilaka.
After the rain delay, the reduced target for Australia was 216 runs in 43 overs. The visitors' batters, too, struggled to build big partnerships as Sri Lanka kept striking regularly, not allowing the Australians to settle. The first batter to return to the dressing room was captain Aaron Finch, who was trapped in front for 14 in the eighth over.
His partner, David Warner, who was dismissed for a rare duck last match, looked determined for a big score this time. However, his steady innings was cut short, as he was clean bowled for 37. Dhananjaya de Silva accounted for the openers' wickets.
Steve Smith (28), Travis Head (23) and Marnus Labuschagne (18) got good starts but were undone by the Sri Lankan attack. Young spinner Dunith Wellalage, the U19 Cricket World Cup 2022 star, snared the wickets of Head and Labuschagne in back-to-back overs, reducing Australia to 132/5.
At the end of the 34th over, Australia were 165/5 with Alex Carey and last match's hero Glenn Maxwell in the middle, according to ICC. With batters of their calibre at the crease and 51 runs required off 54 balls, victory for Australia seemed feasible. However, the next over by Chamika Karunaratne swung the game Sri Lanka's way.
It started with the wicket of Maxwell (30 off 25), who sliced in the air, and Shanaka completed the catch. That wicket put pressure on the visitors' batters. Carey followed suit in the same over after trying hard to run for two, ending up throwing away his wicket for 15.
The equation came down to 39 runs from 46 balls, next ball Cummins slapped a four over mid-on. However, two balls later, Wellalage dives to his front to take a spectacular catch off Dushmantha Chameera as Cummins went back for 4.
In no time, Sri Lanka wrapped up Australia's innings, bowling them out for 189. It was the hosts' first win over Australia at Pallekele in men's ODIs.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 220/9 in 47.4 overs (Kusal Mendis 36, Dhananjaya de Silva 34, Dasun Shanaka 34; Pat Cummins 4/35, Glenn Maxwell 2/35) beat Australia 189 in 37.1 overs (David Warner 37, Glenn Maxwell 30; Dushmantha Chameera 2/19, Dhananjaya de Silva 2/26, Chamika Karunaratne 3/47, Dunith Wellalage 2/25) by 26 runs (DL method).