DAMBULLA: John Hastings claimed six wickets before Aaron Finch and George Bailey’s attacking half-centuries powered Australia to a series clinching six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the fourth one-day international in Dambulla on Wednesday.
Australia rode on Finch’s 19-ball 55 and an unbeaten 90 from Bailey to chase down 213 in 31 overs and take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Earlier Hastings’ career-best bowling figures of 6-45 helped bowl out Sri Lanka for 212 after electing to bat first despite Dhananjaya de Silva’s fighting 76.
In reply, Finch’s opening blitz gave Australia a rocket start against a Sri Lankan attack that missed skipper Angelo Mathews’ medium pace after the all-rounder hurt his calf while batting.
Finch, who equalled the record for the fastest fifty in 18 balls by an Australian, struck eight fours and three sixes as he carted the Sri Lankan spinners to all parts of the ground.
Left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana’s triple strike in the space of five deliveries checked the visitors’ surge but only for a brief while.
Pathirana got the wickets of danger man Finch and Usman Khawaja for nought in his opening over of the innings. He then bowled skipper David Warner for 19 on the first ball of his next over.
Bailey, who registered his 21st ODI fifty, carried the momentum forward as he anchored Australia’s chase with his 85-ball knock, laced with 11 fours and a six.
He got the perfect partner in Travis Head, who scored 40, as the duo put on 100 runs for the fourth wicket.
Head was trapped lbw off Dilruwan Perera but Matthew Wade, who remained unbeaten on eight, joined Bailey at the crease to hit the winning six.
The victory comes as a welcome relief for the visiting side after they suffered their first series whitewash against Sri Lanka in the three Test matches.
Sri Lanka suffered from a lack of partnerships as their innings ran out of steam as they folded on the last ball of the 50th over.
Australia’s pace spearhead Mitchell Starc struck in the very first over to have debutant batsman Avishka Fernando trapped lbw for nought.
Man of the match Hastings soon got Kusal Mendis caught behind for one. The on-field umpire gave the batsman not out before Australia successfully reviewed the decision.
Scott Boland, who replaced Josh Hazlewood in the Australian starting XI, joined the pace charge to dismiss previous match centurion Dinesh Chandimal — caught behind to leave Sri Lanka reeling on 31 for three.
De Silva and Mathews then started a rebuilding act, mixing caution and aggression against a persistent Australian attack.
Mathews, who was badly shaken after being hit on the back of his helmet off a Boland bouncer, made a gritty 28 before retiring hurt with a calf injury that hampered his footwork and running between the wickets.
De Silva, whose maiden ODI half-century included nine boundaries, looked a little edgy after Mathews’ departure and soon departed after spooning a catch to mid-wicket off Hastings.
Australia’s spinners then got in on the act as Adam Zampa and Head took two more wickets to land Sri Lanka in deeper trouble.
Pathirana chipped in with a crucial 24-run cameo to help Sri Lanka pass the 200-run mark from a precarious 165 for seven.
Hastings’ double strike in the 48th over brought him his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs.
A limping Mathews, who scored a gutsy 40, returned to bat in that same over to add some useful runs to the Sri Lankan total, which in the end proved insufficient for the rampaging visitors.
The fifth and final match of the series is scheduled on September 4 in Pallekele.