Aussies destroyed in Pallekele

Australia

A maiden T20 international ton from Tillakaratne Dilshan led Sri Lanka to a comfortable 35-run victory over Australia in the first of two 20-over clashes in Pallekele.

A maiden T20 international hundred from Tillakaratne Dilshan led Sri Lanka to a comfortable 35-run victory over Australia in the first of two 20-over clashes in Pallekele.

The Sri Lankan captain blasted 104 not out as the hosts posted 198 for three after being made to bat first by Cameron White.

In response Australia were never in the running with only David Warner's valiant half-century providing any resistance. A late flourish from the Aussie tail did little more than save face after T20l debutant Dilruwan Perera had done the damage up front with his off spin.

The convincing nature of the victory was an important psychological blow for the home side at the start of a long tour which also includes five ODIs and three Test matches.

A passing shower failed to delay the start of play, but it may have coerced White into choosing to bowl first, with Aaron Finch and James Pattinson the players left out of the Aussie squad. For the hosts both Perera and Dhimmika Prasad made their T20I debuts – having already represented their country in other formats – while Sri Lanka opted for four spinners in their attack.

The home side made a lively start but lost Mahela Jayawardene early, bowled by Brett Lee. Dinesh Chandimal's promising stint in the middle was also brought to a premature end as he fell over on his own wickets but Dilshan remained, playing with fluency as Sri Lanka reached 45 for two after six overs.

Kumar Sangakkara joined his captain and stroked four boundaries in his 30 before chipping tamely to White to give Shane Watson his only wicket. The stand was worth 52, and set the innings up for a blistering final seven overs.

While Jeevan Mendis played a fantastic cameo of 29 off 19 balls, Dilshan carved his way to three figures – in a knock including 12 fours and five sixes – with characteristic pulls over midwicket, late cuts and his famous Dilscoop. Watson was bashed for 22 off one over, while John Hastings conceded 34 runs from his three.

More punishment was then metered out on Mitchell Johnson in the final over. With six deliveries left in the innings Dilshan was on 84, and Sri Lanka on 178 for three. After the opening dot ball the Sri Lankan captain then smashed Johnson for 20 runs in the next four deliveries, appropriately posting a hundred with a scoop for four.

The target of 199 for victory was a tall order, but gettable with Australia's long batting line-up. Watson threatened briefly, but was bowled for 10 by Nuwan Kulasekara and no one else in the tourists' top-order was able to stick around in support of Warner. The left-hander reached fifty from only 29 balls before falling tamely with a chip to cover.

The 29-year-old Perera – having spent his entire career in the shadow of Muttiah Muralitharan – was brought on in the fifth over and made a startling impact, grabbing a wicket in each of his first three overs. Shaun Marsh was followed by David Hussey and White as Australia crashed to 63 for 4 – the off spinner finishing with figures of three for 26.

At that stage the game was all but over, and Sri Lanka took their foot off the pedal as Johnson (22 not out) and Steve O'Keefe (22) reduced the deficit with some late hitting.

The second game of the two-match series takes place at the same venue on Monday.

<b>Doug Saxby</b>

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