Ponting steers Australia to eight-wicket win

Updated: 14 August 2011 21:58 IST

The Australians lead the series 2-0; by Tuesday, it could be 3-0, and all over bar the dead rubbers.

Ponting steers Australia to eight-wicket win

Perhaps Tillakaratne Dilshan should send Australia in next time. He needs to do something to shake his team out of their slumber after another professional performance from Australia, this time led by Doug Bollinger with the ball and Ricky Ponting with the bat, set up a comfortable eight-wicket win in Hambantota. The Australians lead the series 2-0; by Tuesday, it could be 3-0, and all over bar the dead rubbers.

Scorecard

In Pallekele last Wednesday, Dilshan won the toss and chose to bat, and his men were bowled out for a sub-par total that the attack couldn't defend. The venue has changed but the result was exactly the same this time around, as he again chose to bat and the Sri Lankan top order again failed to build a target that would worry Michael Clarke's side. Australia were set 209 for victory, and they got there with 11.4 overs remaining.


The scorecard will show that Ponting finished unbeaten on 90, and it's true that it was a fine innings: he was calm, the bowlers' variations rarely troubled him, and he waited for the bad balls to put away. But he was rarely pressured by a lacklustre Sri Lanka. The fluttering of their shirts in oppressively windy conditions was about as animated as Sri Lanka's players got.

Lasith Malinga added a little spark to the attack in his return from a back injury, and when he splayed the stumps of Shane Watson with an excellent inswinging yorker, there was a buzz around the ground. But the 94-run stand that Watson and Ponting had compiled meant that Sri Lanka needed to spark a collapse to have any hope, and that didn't happen.

Ponting and Michael Clarke (58 not out) handled Malinga and Ajantha Mendis well, and were not troubled by the rest of the bowlers. Just as they did on Wednesday, both men posted half-centuries without too much drama. Of course, when you're chasing 209 on a good batting surface, there shouldn't be any reason for headaches.

Apart from the early loss of the out-of-form Brad Haddin, who edged behind off Nuwan Kulasekara in the second over and was well taken by Kumar Sangakkara up to the stumps, Australia were in cruise control. Watson was uncharacteristically slow out of the blocks, but gradually found his touch, and a vicious pull for six off Rangana Herath was classic Watson.

Ponting drove the seamers confidently and swivelled a rank long hop from Kulasekara for six, and Clarke even cleared the boundary a couple of times in a classy display. But just as it had been in the series opener, Australia's win was set up by the bowlers, and by Clarke's impressive and aggressive captaincy.

Only Sangakkara's 52 and a late flourish from Kulasekara gave Sri Lanka any hope, and they must address their batting problems before the third match. In the first game, too many men threw their wickets away, perhaps still in Twenty20 mode, but in Hambantota they over-corrected. The Sri Lankan batsmen tried to stand firm but in the process forgot about scoring runs.

For much of the innings, the run-rate hovered below four, which can be sustained if wickets are in hand to launch a late attack. On the contrary, wickets were out of hand, as Bollinger and his colleagues maintained the pressure and kept making breakthroughs. The only half-century partnership was a 63-run stand between Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, who did their best to rebuild after the side slipped to 77 for 4.

But when Sangakkara (52) tried to lift the tempo with a slog over midwicket off David Hussey's offspin, all he could manage was a miscue that was caught on the long-on boundary. Earlier, Sangakkara had cleared the rope straight down the ground off Xavier Doherty, but it was Sri Lanka's first boundary in 16 overs, and that told the story.

After Sangakkara departed, Mathews (35) tried to take charge but was caught at deep cover off Bollinger, who finished with 3 for 35 and showed impressive smarts as well as speed and bounce. He had already accounted for Dinsesh Chandimal with a terrific one-two; a well-directed bouncer had Chandimal in all sorts of trouble as he tried to fend it down, and the next delivery was a good ball angled across the batsman, whose tentative prod resulted in an edge behind.

As had been the case on Wednesday, it was left to Kulasekara to provide some late runs, which he did with an entertaining 32 from 30 balls before he was the last man dismissed, in the 50th over. Too much had been left to the tail following the early dismissals of the top-order men. Sri Lanka needed a total in the region of 250, but things started to go wrong when the 37-run opening stand between Dilshan and Upul Tharanga ended.

The windy conditions meant it was important that Clarke chose the right ends for his bowlers, and the first breakthrough came when Brett Lee switched ends and bowled with the wind supporting his inswinger. In his first over of that spell, Lee got one to move in to Dilshan, who looked for an expansive drive but played the wrong line and was bowled for 24.

Mitchell Johnson got rid of the other opener, Tharanga, who tried to sway out of the way of a bouncer but gloved behind when the ball didn't rise quite as much as he expected. It was a subdued innings from Tharanga, who made 13 from 30 deliveries, and Mahela Jayawardene (17 off 30) was also in no hurry, before he fell to a top-edged sweep off Xavier Doherty. The slower bouncer accounted for Jeevan Mendis, who tried to hook and was caught off the bowling of Lee.

All in all, it was a disappointing batting effort from Sri Lanka. To bat first in consecutive games and be dismissed both times is not good enough. Dilshan needs to find some way to lift his team before Tuesday, or this series could be over before the teams even get to Colombo.



Topics : Australia Sri Lanka Cricket Ricky Ponting
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