BRISBANE (Reuters) - Australia finally got back to winning ways 18 days before the start of the Ashes with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the third one-day international on Sunday.
The Australians were reeling after losing their previous seven matches in all forms of cricket and had already conceded the three-match series after defeats in the first two encounters.
Clint McKay took 5-33 with fellow quick Mitchell Starc chipping in with 4-27 to dismiss the Sri Lankans for a paltry 115, however, and the Australian batsmen took just 21.4 overs to reach their victory target at the cost of two wickets.
Michael Clarke, standing in for rested skipper Ricky Ponting, was in impressive form and grabbed the winning runs by guiding the ball down to third man for a four, bringing up his 50 in the process.
McKay had given the hosts the perfect start at the Gabba with two wickets in the third over of the day and he struck again in his next over to reduce the Sri Lankans to 3-14.
Ably supported by his 20-year-old fellow quick Starc, McKay returned to help mop up the Sri Lankan tail-end and claim his first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals.
Chamara Silva, who made 33, and opener Upul Tharanga (28) top-scored for Sri Lanka but there was none of the flourish to their batting that saw them secure their first series victory on Australian soil on Friday.
The opening Ashes test is also at the Gabba and the bounce and pace evident in the pitch on Sunday augured well for an entertaining contest starting on Nov 25.
Sangakkara credits Sri Lanka’s self-belief in series win
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara was unsurprisingly full of praise for his team after they wrapped up their first ever series victory on Australian soil with a 29-run win in the second one-dayer at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“There’s a lot to be taken out of the way we played these games,” he said.
We played the way we believed we could coming here.
It was just a case of us fighting to convert every opportunity and tonight I thought it was a great all-round performance.” The last time Sri Lanka were in Australia, in 2007-08, they were beaten 2-0 in the Test series and failed to reach the final of the CB series, which also included India.
This time, they met an Australian side struggling for form, having lost five consecutive games across all formats going into this series.
But Sangakkara insisted that Australia’s struggles didn’t take the gloss off a maiden series win down under.
“It means a lot,” he said.
“This is a stage we always wanted to get to where everyone does what is asked of them and you can’t ask any more of the players.
They have grown in stature and self-belief.
Sri Lankan cricket seems to be in really good hands going forward.” While Sri Lanka’s new generation of players, such as opening batsman Upul Tharanga and allrounders Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews, played a major role in the team’s victory, Sangakkara also made special mention of Muttiah Muralitharan, who is on his final tour of the country.