The change of captain has brought an immediate change of fortune for Australia on their troubled tour of Sri Lanka, as George Bailey’s half-century helped secure a nervy two-wicket win in Dambulla to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
David Warner debuted as skipper following Steve Smith’s sudden return home mid-week, and a high-energy showing in the field resulted in Sri Lanka being bowled out for 226 off 49.2 overs.
Warner’s poor form with the bat continued when he was dismissed for 10, but there were important contributions from opening partner Aaron Finch (30 off 29 balls) and Travis Head (36 off 48).
But it was Bailey who hit a match-winning innings of 70 from 99 balls and added 81 for the fifth wicket in concert with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (42 off 45).
The pair looked settled in taking Australia to within 39 runs of their target, only for both to fall in quick succession.
It was a nervy finish for Australia as four late wickets fell, and the winning run came as Tillakaratne Dilshan spilled a difficult catch off Adam Zampa as the Aussies reached 8-227 off 46 overs.
The pitch didn’t offer as much assistance to Sri Lanka’s spinners as it did in the opening two matches in Colombo, but Australia seemed intent on being aggressive from the outset with Finch crashing a six off the first ball bowled by left-arm orthodox spinner Amila Aponso (2-44).
Warner was aggressive with his bowling changes and field settings as Australia had a much better time of things with the ball in comparison to last Wednesday when Sri Lanka posted a record home tally of 288 against their rivals.
In-form Sri Lanka batsman Dinesh Chandimal was the backbone of the Sri Lanka innings, contributing a smart 102 before being the last man out.
There were few other contributors for Sri Lanka, though veteran opener Dilshan looked dangerous before falling for 42 on his ODI farewell.
For the third successive match Australian fast-bowler Mitchell Starc (2-42) took a wicket in the first over of the match, this time dismissing Danushka Gunathilaka for 5.
But it was leg-spinner Zampa who impressed the most, with his 3-38 helping put the brakes on Sri Lanka, who at one stage were 2-96 and scoring at five an over.
Shaun Marsh replaced Smith in the Aussie side, while Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings were also brought in for Nathan Lyon and Moises Henriques.
Australia will have the opportunity to wrap up the ODI series, and partly atone for a 3-0 Test series defeat, when the fourth match is played in Dambulla on Wednesday. (Courtesy Sydney Morning Herald)