Sri Lanka 75-6 (Perera 22no) beat
Australia 74 (Kulasekara 5-22) by four wickets
Third One-Day International, Brisbane
Report by John Pennington
Things continue to get worse for Australia, who followed up a limp display in Melbourne and a week fending off criticism by being dismissed for 74 on their way to a four-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka in the third One-Day International in Brisbane.
Sri Lanka had never beaten Australia in an ODI at the Gabba prior to the match and might never win as comprehensively again as they reached their target with 30 overs to go.
Australia have never lost an ODI with as many balls (180) in hand and at one point were reeling at 40 for nine before career bests from Mitchell Starc (22 not out) and Xavier Doherty (15) added 34 for the final wicket and at least took them past their previous lowest total of 70.
Nuwan Kulasekara did the bulk of the damage for Sri Lanka, returning five for 22 with an outstanding display of controlled swing bowling and although Australia bowled well, innings of 22 from Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kushal Perera saw the tourists home and into a 2-1 lead in the series with two games remaining.
This most humbling of defeats for Australia came after captain Michael Clarke launched a staunch defence of the rotation policy currently employed, but this was as close to a full-strength team that Australia could have called on although no top order batsman reached double figures.
Only Clarke (9) and Matthew Wade (8) managed to bat for more than 20 balls, such was the inability of Australia to build partnerships in the face of some excellent work from Sri Lanka, who have improved as the series as gone, making light of injuries to Kumar Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal.
Kulasekara is now as experienced and wise as any ODI bowler and he showed his class with the wickets of Phillip Hughes (3), Clarke, David Hussey (4), George Bailey (0) and Moises Henriques (2). Hooping inswing was too good for Bailey, trapped in front, and Clarke, who was bowled and while the other three got bat to ball, they could only find fielders who snapped up the catches.
The ever-dangerous Lasith Malinga backed Kulasekara up by removing Wade, Mitchell Johnson (2) and Clint McKay (0) before Starc and Doherty batted for eight overs together to briefly frustrate the Sri Lankans.
Australia then came out and produced a stirring performance in the field, although it proved to be in vain thanks to the pathetic total they were defending.
Mahela Jayawardene fell to McKay before Johnson (3-11) chipped in to dismiss Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne (7) and Angelo Mathews (0).
Perera, in just his second match, stood firm, making 22 not out in 28 balls and with useful cameos of 12 from Upul Tharanga and then four in two balls from Thisara Perera, was able to guide Sri Lanka over the line in exactly 20 overs.
Had Australia held at least three catches that went down and not missed a chance to run out Mendis before he was dismissed, Sri Lanka would have been under even more pressure but Australia seemed committed to only using one of the three disciplines - their batting and fielding was as miserable as their bowling was sharp.
Starc finished as the only Australia to have earned some credit with bat and ball by having Tharanga and Jeevan Mendis (2) caught to end with figures of two for 25.
Sri Lanka were at one point 37 for four. Although Australia's 74 lies third on their list of all-time low scores, it is not inconceivable that had they managed to reach three figures, they might have won; not that that will stop more questions being asked of Clarke, the selectors and the direction they are taking this Australia team.
Australia's 5 lowest ODI innings:
70 v England, Edgbaston, 1977
70 v New Zealand, Adelaide, 1986
74 v Sri Lanka, Brisbane, 2013
91 v West Indies, Perth, 1987
93 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2006
The full list is here: http://stats.cricketworld.com/Records/Australia/ODI/Team/Lowest_Team_Totals_For.html
© Cricket World 2013
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