Australia, after having dominated the T20I series against Sri Lanka, will be looking for a clean sweep when they take on the visitors in the fifth and final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here later on Sunday.
The Australians, under the captaincy of Aaron Finch, have shown how difficult it is to beat them in home series, having won all four games so far — three of them with consummate ease, while one match went into the Super Over.
The Australian bowlers, especially Josh Hazlewood — who returned to the side after missing four Ashes Tests due to a side strain — have been outstanding. In the first three matches, the tall fast bowler struck early to dent the Sri Lankan batting line-up, and whenever required, it was Adam Zampa who did the rest in the middle overs.
After winning the first three T20Is and securing the series, Australia tried out new players in the fourth T20I. The strategy worked as young pacer Jhye Richardson impressed with bowling figures of 2/20 in the contest.
Despite the fact that the series has gone entirely in Australia’s favour, the hosts have struggled in various departments. Finch’s form has been a concern. He has struggled with his timing of the ball, forcing him to move positions in the batting order. But this strategy hasn’t worked either. With Ashton Agar opening the innings with Ben McDermott and Finch at No. 3, other batters like Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, and Marcus Stoinis have been pushed down the order.
The top-order has failed to deliver in the last two T20Is, and it has been the middle-order that has delivered at the right time and fulfilled the task for Australia.
The visitors, on the other side, will be disappointed with their performance here. Despite being hit by COVID-19 on several occasions during the ongoing series, they have shown immense character, but it has only been the bowlers who have been up to the task. Sri Lanka’s over-reliance on Pathum Nissanka has cost them victories. The openers haven’t been consistent but whenever Sri Lanka have got off to a good start, they’ve struggled to keep the momentum going. In the middle overs, Sri Lanka have lost wickets and the misery has continued in the death overs, owing to their inability to put up a solid total or chase it down.
Going into the final T20I, Sri Lanka will have to overcome their batting woes in order to avoid a clean sweep.
During the fourth ODI at the same venue, Australia defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets to go 4-0 up. The visitors could only manage 139 runs at the end of 20 overs. The Sri Lankan top-order contributed but owing to a batting collapse, they missed the opportunity to put up a big total.
Chasing the total, Australia lost early wickets but Josh Inglis and Glenn Maxwell starred with the bat. Maxwell scored an unbeaten 48 off 39 deliveries and Inglis’ fiery innings of 40 in 20 balls helped Australia chase down the target with 11 balls to spare.
Finch said ahead of the fifth T20I that he was impressed with the left-arm spin of Ashton Agar.
“Our bowlers got shuffled around a bit. Agar is bowling beautifully. His variations in pace has been wonderful. He is contributing with the bat and is a great fielder. We need a strong 6 and 7 if we need to win the WC. We saw (Matthew) Wade did that for us against Pakistan in the WC and then against SA in the WC as well. Josh (Inglis) is hard to bowl to as he can hit you anywhere on the field. Maxi (Maxwell) has been playing very well. He was able to sit back and support Inglis. Played a mature role to get us over the line,” said Finch.
Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka lamented the lack of runs from his batters.
“A few positives but not enough runs on the board. The spinners bowled well. We are lacking a little in the batting department. It is always a nice feeling at Melbourne. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a win for our supporters here,” said Shanaka.