AUSTRALIA were bowled out for 208 chasing Sri Lanka’s 9-286 in the third one-day match at Hambantota, the 78-run defeat cutting the tourist’s lead in the five-game series to 2-1 going into the final two matches in Colombo.
Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and asked the Sri Lankans to bat on a pitch with a bit of life in it after overnight rain but after Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan survived a taxing opening period the tide turned.
Playing in just his third match back from a three-month drugs ban, Tharanga worked his way to his fourth one-day hundred of 2011 and 12th of his career before eventually falling for 111 off 139 deliveries.
He shared big partnerships with Dilshan (55) and Kumar Sangakkara (49) to set up the hosts’ innings before Mahela Jayawardene’s cameo 36 off 33 balls steered them home.
Doug Bollinger was again the pick of the Australian bowlers, claiming 4-42 in his 10 overs to complement his three-wicket haul in game two on Sunday night.
But in reply Australia barely had their chase begun when Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were back in the hut, both out for five.
Clarke (46) and Michael Hussey, who top-scored with 63, provided some resistance but Malinga’s devastating pace and yorkers enabled him to snare 5-28 and show he’s fully recovered from the back injury which forced him to miss the Twenty20s and first one-day match.
“We didn’t perform well enough at the top of the order,” Clarke told reporters.
“We have no excuses. We didn’t perform as well as we would like and we know that.
“We have some work to do over the next few days because, as I said from the start, playing Sri Lanka, especially in their home conditions, you have to be at your best to beat them.”
Dilshan reserved his praise for Malinga, and also young paceman Shaminda Eranga, who claimed the wickets of Haddin and Ricky Ponting (22) to take 2-38 on his ODI debut.
“The first 10 overs were crucial, and we did well to see them off,” Dilshan said.
“All the batsmen that followed did well.
“We believed 260 was good to defend, and we proved it.
“Eranga bowled really well, and Malinga was good as usual.”
The series now moves to the capital Colombo, where the fourth match takes place on Saturday.
Game five is on Monday.