Asela Gunaratne cracked 7 boundaries to score 52 off 37 © AFP
Asela Gunaratne cracked 7 boundaries to score 52 off 37 © AFP

Sri Lanka continued their unbeaten streak in T20I cricket in Australia, as they beat the hosts by 5 wickets in the first game of their three-match T20I series at Melbourne on Friday. Chasing 169 to win, Sri Lanka were bolstered by a rapid half-century from Asela Gunaratne towards the finishing stages of the match to achieve the feat. However, the visitors did show some nervousness in the final stages of the game. Sri Lanka have now taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, and Australia’s poor run in T20Is continued as they suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in their backyard. India had defeated Australia 3-0 at the start of 2015.  FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Australia vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI at Melbourne

Gunaratne smacked 7 boundaries to score 52 off 37 balls and provided the impetus that Sri Lanka needed in their chase. He did not shy away from lashing out at bad deliveries, however, his selection of balls off which he attempted switch-hits remained in question. He added 60 runs off 6.3 overs with Milinda Siriwardana towards the closing stages of the game to achieve their victory. Earlier in their chase, Niroshan Dickwella and Dilshan Munaweera added 74 for the second wicket which provided a very strong platform in their chase. The game, however, ended on the final ball of the match. FULL CRICKET UPDATES: Australia vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI at Melbourne

Sri Lanka were marching on towards a victory when an over from Ashton Turner turned the tables. In the 19th over, he got Gunaratne stumped for 52, and one delivery later, Siriwadana was caught behind. The final over had Sri Lanka need 6 to win, which they achieved only on the final delivery when Chamara Kapugedara struck a four through cover, piercing the many men standing close to avoid the single off Andrew Tye.

Dickwella and Munaweera provided Sri Lanka the platform to make their chase successful. The Sri Lankans were rocked early when their captain Upul Tharanga was caught behind earlier in their innings off Pat Cummins, but Dickwella and Munaweera continued to attack. They made room to attack and punished Billy Stanlake, who was smacked for 24 runs in his second over.

The difference between the two sides was clearly their strokeplay, not just the running between the wickets. Australia hit a total of 9 boundaries and 4 sixes, whereas Sri Lanka outgunned their hosts completely in this aspect. Sri Lankan batsmen cracked 20 boundaries and 1 six to get to their target.

For Australia, three of their batsmen got starts but failed to carry on. Aaron Finch top scored with 44 and also brought up his 1,000 runs in T20I cricket. Debutant Michael Klinger scored 38 off 32 with 4 boundaries, while Travis Head managed 31 off 24 balls with only 1 six.

The game also saw a successful return to international cricket for Sri Lanka veteran Lasith Malinga, who looked bulkier than he was seen last on the circuit. However, the sharpness remained as it is; Malinga bowled 4 overs and claimed 2 for 29.

Brief scores:

Australia 168 for 6 in 20 overs (Aaron Finch 43, Michael Klinger 38, Travis Head 31; Lasith Malinga 2 for 29) lost to Sri Lanka 172 for 5 in 20 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 30, Dilshan Munaweera 44, Asela Gunaratne 52; Adam Zampa 2 for 26, Ashton Turner 2 for 12) by 5 wickets.

Man of the Match: Asela Gunaratne