Australians 319 for 8 (Finch 137, Head 85*, Pradeep 3-57) beat Sri Lankans 318 for 7 (Mathews 95, Gunaratne 70*, Henriques 3-46) by two wickets
Aaron Finch raised his century off just 76 balls © Getty Images
After weeks of pay talks with their board, there was some cheer on the field for the Australians as they warmed up for the Champions Trophy with a two-wicket win over Sri Lanka. Aaron Finch contributed 137 off 109 balls courtesy 11 fours and six sixes while Travis Head, reprieved on 60, made 85 not out as Australia recovered from a middle-order wobble to squeeze home in a 319 chase with two balls to spare.
The victory would be that much sweeter to the Australians, even though this was only a precursor to the main tournament, as it came without their rested captain Steven Smith and frontline pacer Mitchell Starc, who is returning to competitive cricket after a three-month layoff.
All this meant Angelo Mathews‘ 95, which once again underlined his importance in Sri Lanka’s starting XI, went in vain. Mathews, playing his first competitive fixture for his country after a six-month layoff due to a hamstring injury, did bulk of the damage in Asela Gunaratne’s company. The pair added 91 to offset Sri Lanka’s middle order woes as they recovered sensationally from 152 for 5 in 28 overs.
Mathews, who walked in at 71 for 3 in the 12th over, treaded cautiously – taking 77 balls to get to his half-century – before cutting lose in the end overs, inching closer to a run-a-ball when he fell in the 44th over. Gunaratne, who took apart Josh Hazlewood for three sixes and a four in the penultimate over, was also well supported by Seekkuge Prasanna, the legspinner, who remained unbeaten on 30 as the last five overs fetched 61.
The Australians started cautiously but Finch’s turbocharge soon resulted in them clawing back in line with the asking rate. The opener raised his century off just 76 balls with a six off Gunaratne. His 75-run stand with Head left Sri Lankans worried before Nuwan Pradeep’s strike to get rid of Finch and Glenn Maxwell off successive deliveries rejuvenated them. But Head’s reprieve on 60 with Australia needing 21 off 15 proved costly in the end for Sri Lankans, who will play New Zealanders on May 30 in a bid to head into the tournament on a winning note.
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo