ri Lanka went into the first ODI of the series against Australia at Colombo as favourites, having thrashed the Aussies
Sri Lanka went into the first ODI of the series against Australia at Colombo as favourites, having thrashed the Aussies 3-0 in the Tests. But, the change in format and the infusion of fresh legs definitely made a difference as the visitors got the better of the hosts in the first match. It wasn't the most fluent of efforts. They were found out against spin again. But, Australia's pace bowlers had done enough for them to secure the early lead in the one-day series. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, failed to put up enough runs on the board, which hurt them.
A middle-order collapse was what cost Sri Lanka the match, in hindsight. They were reasonably placed at 124 for 2 at one point of time, but quickly crumbled to 132 for 5. The well-set Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews fell to James Faulkner in the same over, while Mitchell Starc at the other end, got rid of the promising Dhananjaya de Silva. Sri Lanka did well to reach 227 from there, but it wasn't going to be enough. There were good cameos by Milinda Siriwardana and Thisara Perera towards the end, but Sri Lanka were always behind in the race.
The Lankans would be most disappointed with the fact that they managed only 227 despite two of their batsmen crossing the half-century mark. Dinesh Chandimal anchored the innings through, remaining unbeaten on 80. While it was an impressive knock, Chandimal's strike rate in the format remains a worry. He scored his runs at under 70 runs per 100 balls, and hit only three fours during his stay at the crease. Kusal Mendis did better in his 67, scoring at just over 70. It was an indication of how well Australia bowled, and the failure of the middle-order hurt them.
Australia's pace bowlers stood out on the day. Starc carried on his excellent form from the Tests into the ODIs as well, picking up three wickets, and in the process becoming the quickest to reach 100 wickets. Faulkner was even better claiming four wickets. The duo bowled excellent line and lengths, and kept the Sri Lankan batsmen on the backfoot. If anything, they would expect better from their other bowlers, Josh Hazelwood, Adam Zampa and Moises Henriques. The trio could not back Starc and Faulkner, and allowed Sri Lanka to recover to an extent.
Sri Lanka's bowlers would have sensed a chance, considering Australia's poor batting effort in the Tests. But, just like in the bowling, the inclusion of specialists made a difference to Australia's batting fortunes as well. Aaron Finch kept the Aussies ahead in the chase even as David Warner fell early. Finch and Steven Smith compiled half-centuries that went a long way in securing victory for Australia. George Bailey also chipped in with a good cameo. Sri Lanka hit back hard towards the end with wickets from Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan. But, Australia had progressed far enough by then.