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Gunaratne leads Sri Lanka to thrilling five-wicket win over Australia

Asela Gunaratne scored a match-winning fifty in the chase
Asela Gunaratne scored a match-winning fifty in the chase

Sri Lanka 172-5 (Gunaratne 52) beat
Australia 168-6 (Finch 43) by five wickets
First Twenty20 International in Melbourne

Asela Gunaratne with a classy 52-run knock led Sri Lanka to a thrilling five-wicket win over Australia during the first Twenty20 international game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday.

After winning the toss, Upul Tharanga opted to field first.

The decision fairly backfired for the visitors as Aaron Finch (43) and Michael Klinger (38) got the hosts a decent 76-run opening stand in just 10 overs.

Lakshan Sandakan (1-30) at last provided the breakthrough in the 11th overby dismissing Klinger. His opening partner didn't last too long as Asela Gunaratne (1-11) got the better of the Australian skipper who top-edged the slog sweep towards short fine leg.

Moises Henriques (17) got off to a quick start but failed to carry-on as he holed out a slog towards long on off Vikum Sanjaya Bandara (1-35) bowling in the 16th over.

Travis Head (31), who was quietly rotating strike on the other end, became Lasith Malinga's (2-29) first victim in the 19th over. On the very next ball Ashton Turner (18) got out in similar fashion as Australia failed to gain some momentum in the closing stages.

The hosts concluded their innings with 168 runs on the board at the loss of six wickets after 20 overs.

The Lankans got off to a dodgy start as skipper Upul Tharanga (0) was out on the very second delivery of the Lankan innings after edging one to the keeper off Pat Cummins' (1-29) bowling.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella (30) and Dilshan Munaweera (44) gave the visitors a new leaf of hope with an impressive 74-run second partnership stand in just eight overs.

Adam Zampa (2-26) brought the Aussies back into the game by dismissing both the set batsmen.

Gunaratne along with Milinda Siriwardana (15) composed a 60-run partnership stand for the fourth wicket in just seven overs. Although it was Gunaratne, who did most of the heavy lifting, Siriwardana made sure he held-on to his wicket and did not give the Aussies any chance to come back into the game.

Desperate for a wicket, Finch threw the ball to Turner, who spun a couple of lovely off-breaks to get rid of Gunaratne and Siriwardana in the 18th over.

However, with just 12 runs needed from 12 balls, Sri Lanka was firmly in control of the game. Despite a couple of tight overs from James Faulkner (0-27) and Andrew Tye (0-32), Chamara Kapugedera (10) and Seekkuge Prasanna (8) got the visitors over the line in a level-headed fashion by scoring the winning run on the final ball of the match.

Gunaratne was deservedly awarded the man-of-the-match award.

With this win, Sri Lanka have taken a 1-0 lead in the three match series with the next T20 scheduled to be played at Geelong on Sunday 19th of February.

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