Injury-hit Australia secured a thrilling two-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first one-day international with Glenn Maxwell smashing an entertaining half-century.
Batting at number seven, Maxwell rescued the Australian innings when he walked in at 5-189 with 93 runs required from 84 deliveries. The Victorian was unbeaten on 80 off 51 deliveries with six fours and six sixes.
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Australia needed 12 runs off the last two overs and Maxwell ensured his side secured the win with nine balls to spare, hitting Dushmantha Chameera for back-to-back sixes.
Sri Lanka’s spinners had been on the money, particularly leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who picked up four wickets, but Maxwell toyed with the bowling, clearing the boundary with no trouble at all. His excellent running between the wickets put pressure on Sri Lankan fielders. With him on the rampage pulling and reverse sweeping at will, the bowlers were under pressure and started erring with their lengths.
Maxwell was involved in two crucial partnerships with the lower order to see Australia over the line. He had been given out leg before wicket to Chamika Karunaratne on 10 but successfully overturned the decision after reviewing. From thereon, there was no stopping him as he brought up his 23rd ODI half-century with a reverse hit for four.
Australia has been slowed due to injuries. Mitchell Marsh (calf) and Mitchell Starc (finger) are not available for selection with injuries while Kane Richardson (hamstring) and Sean Abbott (finger) have returned home. The victory will cheer up the tourists with Starc and Marsh expected to be available for the Colombo leg of the ODI series.
When Sri Lanka set a target of 301, they were favourites to win as no team had chased that many at the venue. However, Australia’s target was revised after a rain interruption. Given the mood Maxwell was in, nothing seemed impossible.
Three half-centuries enabled Sri Lanka to get to its total of 300. Openers Pathum Nissanka (56) and Danushka Gunathilaka (55) added 115 runs for the first wicket before being dismissed in quick succession.
Kusal Mendis then anchored the innings making an unbeaten 86 that came off 87 deliveries with eight fours and a six. They lost three wickets for 19 runs as Australia fought back but a 77 run stand between Mendis and Charith Asalaka (37) helped them to come out of the slump.
“Our bowling was not up to the mark as we sent down too many short balls and full tosses,” Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka said. “They batted well and credit to their batsmen. They read the situation well. Good effort by us to put up 300 on the board and I thought it was a winning score. But then our bowling was poor today. We need to sit down, look at our strategies and bounce back in the next game.”
Australia skipper Aaron Finch said Maxwell’s knock was “fantastic.”
“He was very smart and took some calculated risks. Although we put up decent partnerships, we were always playing catch up as we kept losing wickets,” Finch said. “Then Maxwell put us right back in the game. Steve Smith batted well too. Great to start off the series with a win.”
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