Shanaka hopes to take momentum forward to ODIs

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It was going in the same direction as the first two T20s for 17 overs of the game, with world champion Australia taking the upper hand and eyeing a 3-0 sweep, when skipper Dasun Shanaka – who was striking at 50 – decided to turn things around. And a mere three overs later he gave the packed stadium and the entire cricket crazy nation a moment of sheer joy never to be forgotten in the midst of their recent hardship due to the economic crisis.

Shanaka was 6 off 12 after 17 overs chasing 177 to win with 59 needed off 18. Josh Hazlewood was with the ball and his figures read 3-1-3-2. Shanaka launched an assault into the Pallekele sky, and soon it was all over for Australia, as Shanaka became the first cricketer to score 50 in just the death overs of a T20I (54 off 25) , and Sri Lanka scored the most runs in a successful chase in a T20 in the last three overs.

“At the initial moment when I went out to the crease, I took a few balls to get in. I think my strike rate was around 50. I read the wicket really well, and kept my wicket on the other side without throwing it away. And in the end I was hoping I’d be able to finish the game,” said Shanaka after the victory.

Sri Lanka batted first on both occasions of first two T20s, but it was chasing which did the trick for them as Shanaka had a clear target batting at the death.

“Toss is always important in Sri Lanka, and maybe it wasn’t the best decision to bat first. We hope to take this momentum forward into the ODI series,” said Shanaka.

Sri Lanka will walk into the five match ODI series from tomorrow in Pallekele, where Shanaka is hoping to make an impact.  Sri Lankan woes in the middle order will be something which they would like to address in the ODI series, as it was a highlight of the three match T20I series.

Meanwhile, Australia head coach Andrew McDonald said they were ‘one-dimensional’ and ‘too predictable’ after defeat in Pallekele, though his side secured a 2-1 series win.

Not much has gone wrong for Australia’s T20I side since the start of last year’s World Cup, but Saturday night’s heady scenes in Pallekele put the spotlight on an area of their game that will need some refinement ahead of their title defence later this year.

For the third time this year Sri Lanka put Australia’s death bowling under severe pressure while defending a target – the stunning chase followed victory in Melbourne in February and a tie in Sydney which Australia ultimately won in a Super Over.

“The small reviews we had last night with individuals were that if you had the time again you’d have taken some different options. We felt we got a little one-dimensional at certain periods, a little too predictable and probably went away from what made us really good in the first two games, albeit we weren’t defending a total,” said Australia head coach Andrew McDonald said

As in Melbourne, it was Jhye and Kane Richardson who were given the 19th and 20th overs of the innings, but it also went wrong for the previously outstanding Hazlewood who missed his length and went for 22 in the 18th over.

“We feel that pressure probably took us away at times from what made us really good. We’ve been really good over a period of time and even last night you could argue that for 34 overs that we were playing really good cricket. We’ve got some personnel who are getting exposed to situations which are always a positive.

“There were a couple of areas we could tidy up, no doubt about that. When you get put under that type of pressure we didn’t execute as well as we may have hoped to in that situation. But full credit to an innings of that quality; it deserves the result it got and it was a great game. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of that, but plenty of opportunities to learn from those types of situations,” added McDonald.

By Anjana Kaluarachchi in Pallekele