Australia Go 2-1 Up
David Warner enjoyed a winning debut as captain as Australia scratched their way closer to a series win with a gripping 2 wicket win in Dambulla on Sunday. In the process the tourists took a 2-1 lead in the best of 5 series. Warner stepping in after Australia had controversially decided to rest Steve Smith, took to the job with typical aggressive instincts and purpose as Australia reduced the hosts to 227 after losing the toss. Coming off a demoralising 82 run loss at the Premedasa, Australia had to battle to overhaul the hosts score after the top order were reduced to 3-44 early. Australia were made to graft on another bone dry pitch tailor made for spinners. Lower order batsman John Hastings and Adam Zampa saw Australia across the line but not without some nervy moments. After slumping to 3-44 George Bailey (70) provided the anchor of an impressive middle order rearguard. Combined with Travis Head (36) and Matthew Wade (42), Bailey played with a calmness that kept Australia ahead of the game for most of the run chase. Earlier in the day Dinesh Chandimal (102) reached his 4th ODI hundred continuing his imperious form with a majestic century. Supported by the retiring hero Tillakaratne Dilshan (42), Chandimal continued a run of unbelievable ODI form. In his last 7 innings he has passed 50 six times and the only time he did not he reached 48. The sides return to the same venue for the 4th ODI on Wednesday as Australia look to wrap up the series.
Australia Look To Seal Series In Dambulla
Australia will be eyeing off a morale boosting series win when the sides clash again in Dambulla on Wednesday in the 4th ODI. Australia will be desperate for a change of fortunes with the coin with the same pitch from Sunday being used again in Dambulla. A raging turner is expected and Australia have been forced to bat 2nd in all 3 matches having lost all 3 tosses in the series. Australia are somewhat depleted having lost both Nathan Coulter-Nile and Shaun Marsh for the series through injury. With Steve Smith resting at home, new captain David Warner may be looking to recall out of favour batsman Usman Khawaja for the crunch clash. Khawaja is likely to slot in at number 3 as a direct replacement for the luckless Shaun Marsh. Both sides will be expecting more from their mis-firing top orders given opening the innings is by far the best time to bat on these dry, crumbling wickets. David Warner has failed to reach 20 runs for the series and as captain will be determined to impose himself on the series. Warner averages just 22 from 10 ODI's in Asia which is a surprise for a player of his class. Sri Lanka have problems of their own at the top having failed to see out Mitchell Starc's first 2 overs without losing a wicket in any of the first 3 ODI's. Australia's ODI specialists in George Bailey, Travis Head and Matthew Wade have all played more adeptly than their test counterparts and have helped keep Australia's innings together in all 3 matches. Adam Zampa and James Faulkner have impressed with the ball and will get the opportunity to further push their cause for red ball cricket in the sub continent with another strong performance here.
Goodbye to Maverick Dilshan
At 39 years of age and after a mammoth 330 ODI's for his country it was time to say goodbye to Tillakaratne Dilshan on Sunday in front of an adoring jam packed crowd in Dambulla. Dilshan perhaps fittingly departed the scene after playing a typically bright and breezy innings of 42 that ended when he flat batted a harmless full toss straight to George Bailey at mid wicket. Dilshan's ODI record should not be underestimated, with over 10,000 ODI runs at a tick under an average of 40, Dilshan amassed 22 centuries and 47 half centuries at the top of the order. In the process he became the 11th highest run scorer in ODI history and was a maverick the way he thrilled and entertained crowds. Dilshan was famous for having a shot named after him having played what became known as the "dillscoop" in the 2009 World T20. The shot was typical of Dilshan, fraught with danger for his own safety and his own wicket Dilshan was a fearless batsman who loved to trash bowling attacks. With his strong wrists and ability to punish the ball through the covers Dilshan become a fan favourite in Sri Lanka for over a decade. Dilshan also had a highly respectable Test career amassing 87 games and scoring 16 centuries on his way to an average just over 40. Dilshan proved a very handy ODI bowler with his flat off breaks often getting a crucial breakthrough or playing a holding role. At an economy rate of under 5 runs per over, Dilshan was able to play as a genuine all rounder and combined with his electric fielding he was the ultimate ODI package. It's always sad when you say goodbye to a great player and even more so an unpredictable character like Dilshan. In leaving the stage Dilshan took a swipe at current captain Angelo Matthews as he exited the stage in typically aggressive fashion.
Wade and Zampa State Their Case
Both Matthew Wade and Adam Zampa are making very strong cases for selection for Australia's Test Tour of India in February after impressive performances in Sri Lanka. Wade will be putting the heat right on Peter Neville after solid contributions in all 3 games with the bat. Wade has looked Australia's most effective weapon in combating the spin friendly conditions. The pocket rocket wicket keeper has used the sweep to particular effect and will be pushing for a spot on the Test team as a batter alone on Australia's trip to India if he is not considered polished enough with the gloves to replace Neville. Wade averages a respectable 34 in 12 Test matches and will need to improve on those figures if he wants to be a considered for a Top 6 batting spot. However there is no doubt Australia will be bold in picking batsman that they think might suit the Indian conditions and Wade is putting himself right in the frame. Adam Zampa has enjoyed a hugely impressive start to his ODI career with 19 wickets in 10 matches at an economy rate under 5 runs per over. Zampa is reflective of a newer type of leg spinner that has been so effective around the world in T20 cricket and ODI cricket in the past few years. Zampa pushes the ball through and his quick flat trajectory means he is difficult to pull or cut as he skids the ball through quickly. Zampa makes up for a lack of any prodigious turn with subtle variations in flight. He has a good wrong'un and slider and is proving himself a canny operator. The 24 year old was impressive in Australia's failed World T20 campaign in India claiming 5 wickets in 4 matches and bowling economically. Zampa however has a very modest First Class record averaging 50 with the ball through 22 first class matches. He will no doubt need to take some wickets in the Shield early in the season to continue to put his name up in lights.
Resting Smith Poorly Thought Out
The resting of Steve Smith drew criticism from all quarters including former Australian greats Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and Michael Slater. I feel a little for Smith who at 27 and captain of all 3 formats for Australia has plenty on his plate. The signs of burn out are already there and I think Australia would have been better off having a separate ODI or T20 captain to take some of the heat off Smith. Despite this I think it was a poor look for a captain to be abandoning ship on a tour where his side had been battered from pillar to post. I don't blame Smith as I am sure he would have been given instructions and advice from higher up the chain and would have been reluctant to pack his bags and leave his struggling team behind. I know it was a different era with far less cricket played, however you can imagine the reaction of an Allan Border, Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh if they were told they were being rested half way through a live series. The Australian public resonated with these tough, old school cricket captains and look on in dismay at decisions like this. It makes Smith look bad to the uneducated cricket fan as someone who is soft or happy to take the IPL dollars but rest when his country is playing. I actually feel for Smith and I am sympathetic given cricket is virtually a 12 month a year slog now with countless months spent on the road. I still think things could have been handled a lot better. Smith either should have gone before the series started, with the decision announced before the Test tour even began. This would have indicated clear planning and given David Warner a full series as captain to enhance his leadership prospects. It would also stopped Steve Smith copping an unfair whack.