Bailey final
George Bailey scored an unbeaten 90 to take his team over the line © AFP

The team that miserably struggled against spin reduced it to nothingness with sheer audacity. Yes, we are talking about the mighty Australians. Sri Lanka‘s plan was to play with their spins woes, eventually playing with their minds. But Australians are known for taking the bull by its horn. They play fire with fire, and leave no stone unturned to obliterate the opposition. With a 213-run target on a dustbowl, they fired on all cylinders and chased it down in just 31 overs. In fact, counterattack seemed the only way for the visitors, for they believe that attack is the best possible defence. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Australia vs Sri Lanka, 4th ODI at Dambulla

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews won the toss and elected to bat first, looking to post a big total just like they did in the second match at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo. The plan failed big time, as Mitchell Starc and co. made they sure the hosts were bogged down with absolute pace. Meanwhile, despite wickets tumbling at the other end, Dhananjaya de Silva stood strong in the face of adversity and scored 76 off 87 balls. His 84-run stand with Angelo Mathews made sure Sri Lanka at least go past 200-run mark.

The Australian openers batted the way they did in the late 1990s: go all guns blazing. The destructive duo of Aaron Finch and David Warner started off the proceedings with a flier. However, later it was George Bailey who, with his vast experience, made sure that his team reaches the finish line, sealing the five-match series 3-1. Let’s look at the highlights that set the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on fire:

Dhananjaya de Silva’s masterful knock: Starc dismissed Avishka Fernando for a duck in the first over of the match. It was regular ‘Starc’ delivery: swung in late and trapped the batsman in front. Kusal Mendis later edged John Hastings to the wicketkeeper. Amidst all this, de Silva kept playing delightful strokes.

The 25-year-old was playing in his fifth match, against a No. 1 side of the format. Moreover, in the absence of former opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, the onus was on him to lay the platform for the middle order.

He took his time to get his eye in, for he knew the might of Australian bowling. He dealt in ones and twos at first, but once he found his feet, he made sure the runs column in the scoreboard column scales up. His 76-run knock was studded with 9 boundaries. FULL CRICKET UPDATES: Australia vs Sri Lanka, 4th ODI at Dambulla

Dhananjaya de Silva and Angelo’s Mathews’ gritty stand: Captain Mathews has always been at Sri Lanka’s rescue. When star batsman Dinesh Chandimal was dismissed for 5, it was imperative that someone steps up and keeps the scoreboard ticking. At one end was the set de Silva and at the other was Mathews.

The duo played with utmost caution and added 84 runs for the fourth wicket.

Angelo Mathews’ injury: Mathews pulled a calf muscle when he was batting on 40 off 71 balls. Given the kind of gruelling season Sri Lanka have had for the past few months, this was bound to happen. However, he found it difficult to continue, eventually deciding to retire hurt. The scorecard read 115 for 3 when he left to seek medical attention. With almost half the innings to go, his presence in the middle would have helped Sri Lanka add more runs to their decent total.

Worse, Sri Lanka had to do without Mathews the bowler. Chandimal played the stand-in captain’s role, and mentioned at the post-match presentation that he is not sure whether his regular captain will feature in the final encounter.

John Hastings’ stunning 6-for: Starc or James Faulkner have typically been in the forefront when taking wickets in ODIs are considered. However, it was Hastings who took centre-stage and made Sri Lankan batsmen dance to his own tune. He took 6 wickets, conceding 45 runs in his 10-over spell. This included the crucial wickets of de Silva, Mendis and Thisara Perera. He was rightly adjudged Man of the Match for his match-winning display.

The ‘Aaron Finch’ carnage: Thisara started off the proceedings by bowling a maiden to Warner. The Sri Lankans were fired up. They knew the target was not enough, and have no option but to play fire with fire.

The first over had set the stage for them. Chandimal summoned Amila Aponso to bowl his left-arm spin. The strategy was simple: to dismantle Aussies with top-class spin.

All the same, Finch was in a different mood altogether. He plundered 4 boundaries in the over. The strategy was simpler than Chandimal’s: see the ball, hit the ball. Aponso was left startled by the rampage.

Thisara, who started with a maiden, was sent to the cleaners as well. Finch hit 18 runs off his over; then he hit 2 more boundaries in the next. He kept his stellar show on until he reached his half-century off just 18 balls, registering the joint-fastest fifty for Australia. Such was the dominance that the scorecard read 74 for 1 after 5.3 over when he was dismissed. Also read: Hastings, Bailey guide AUS to 6-wicket win over SL; clinch series

Sachith Pathirana’s brilliance with the ball: At one point, it seemed Australia would win the contest without much scramble. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, needed wickets. And Pathirana provided exactly what the doctor ordered. He dismissed the likes of Finch, Warner and Usman Khawaja. All of a sudden, Australia were 97 for 3, thanks to Pathirana’s top-notch finger-spin.

His spell reminded us of Rangana Herath’s magic in the Test series. However, his heroics vent in vain as Bailey steadied Australia’s sinking ship with his class-apart batsmanship.

George Bailey and his stalwartness: Like he did in the last match, he yet again took the team out the woods. More importantly, he made sure Australia continue the attacking brand of cricket. He danced down the track, pierced gaps, swept, reverse-swept. He did everything what his team asked of him.

Nonetheless, he made sure he stays unbeaten and takes his team over the line.

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)