Sri Lanka impress in comfortable win

A hundred from Upul Tharanga and five wickets for Lasith Malinga saw Sri Lanka to a comfortable 78-run victory in the third one-dayer against Australia in Hambantota on Tuesday.

A hundred from Upul Tharanga and five wickets for Lasith Malinga saw Sri Lanka to a comfortable 78-run victory in the third one-dayer against Australia in Hambantota on Tuesday.

Man of the Matfch Tharanga hit his fourth ODI century of the year, sharing in an opening stand of 137 runs with captain Tillakaratne Dilshan as the hosts posted 286 for nine in their 50-overs. Malinga then sealed the result with his best-ever figures against the Aussies who were bowled out for 208, the home side keeping their series hopes alive with two games left to play.

Ruled out of the recent tour of England due to an awkward run-in with the World Anti-Doping Agency, the talented Tharanga had threatened to pick up on his fine run of form at the World Cup in the first two one-dayers and on Tuesday delivered.

Tharanga enjoyed a spirited 139-run stand alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan for the first wicket to bring Michael Clarke's decision to bowl first into question. The duo, overly aggressive in ODIs one and two, were more measured this time around and progressively cashed in on conditions conducive to a 300-plus score.

Doug Bollinger, Australia's chief wicket-taker of the series, had Dilshan out for 54 when the home captain holed out to midwicket and Dinesh Chandimal came and went two balls later as Clarke clung onto a juggler in the slips.

220 for one quickly became 230 for four as the hosts floundered their way through a premature call for the batting Powerplay. The five-over tactic brought them just 22 runs at the cost of three wickets, including that of Tharanga for 111 (139 balls, 12 fours).

Kumar Sangakkara had played his part in the piece with a quickfire 49, with lovely lofts down the ground a particular favourite of the star left-hander, and the complexion of Sri Lanka's score could have read somewhat prettier had he glanced bat rather than pad to a full delivery from Brett Lee to depart lbw.

Australia's three spinners were largely ineffective and with Bollinger, four-wicket haul in hand, and Lee bowled out, captain Clarke left the closing overs to Mitchell Johnson and Shane Waston.

Mahela Jaywardene (36) premeditated, planked and tonked what he could off the seamers to carry Sri Lanka to more than 100 runs more than they racked up in each of the one-dayers thus far, but 30-some short of what they would've hoped for heading into and beyond the batting Powerplay.

Chasing a challenging total of 287 in order to seal the five-match series, the tourists were never really in the hunt after being reduced to 52 for three by Malinga and debutant Shaminda Eranga. The lanky 25-year-old came on first change to bowl Brad Haddin before accepting a return catch from the in-form Ricky Ponting, this after Shane Watson had lasted just eight deliveries.

Captain Clarke (46) and Mike Hussey combined in the Aussies most encouraging period with the bat as they added 71 for the fourth wicket. However, with all the Sri Lankan bowlers – including Dilshan himself – tightening the screws on the run-flow the pressure eventually told and it was Malinga who made the breakthrough to force an error from the Aussie skipper.

Mike Hussey continued to carry the Australian innings, despite losing brother David who was bowled by Ajantha Mendis. Steve Smith and Hussey then added fifty for the sixth wicket, but when the batting Powerplay was taken wickets were once again the outcome.

Smith was run out for 18 after a fantastic direct hit from Nuwan Kulasekara off his own bowling, while Hussey – who recorded his 35th ODI fifty – became Malinga's third victim.

The slinging fast bowler then bowled Xavier Doherty and Bollinger with characteristic yorkers to seal his five wicket haul, with Australia all out within 45 overs.

The series now moves to Colombo for the final two games.