The guile of Ajantha Mendis saw Sri Lanka seal an eight-run win over Australia in the second T20I in Pallekele on Monday.
The spinner became the first player to claim six wickets in a T20 international as he effected a stunning turnaround after Shane Watson’s half-century had put the Aussies well on their way to victory.
Having won the toss the home side racked up 157 for nine, thanks largely to Mahela Jayawardene’s knock of 84 while John Hastings limited the home side with his four-over spell of three for 14.
In response Australia were cruising to victory as Watson blasted 57 from 24 balls, but Mendis then entered the attack and with four wickets falling in the space of 15 deliveries the hosts were able to tighten their grip before securing a 2-0 series sweep.
The result is Australia’s seventh T20I defeat in their last eight outings.
At the halfway mark the visitors would have been happy with their efforts, after limiting the hosts who had been well placed at 121 for three with six overs to go. But Hastings entered the attack and bowled four overs unchanged at the back-end of the innings to remove Kumar Sangakkara, Jeevan Mendis and Angelo Mathews is quick succession.
Brett Lee would also finish with three wickets, including two in the final over of the innings, as Sri Lanka lost their last six batsmen for just 36 runs. Earlier Jayawardene had stroked his way to a classy half-century – fifty coming from 31 balls – while Kumar Sangakkara hit a promising 24.
The Aussie run-chase began in dramatic fashion thanks to the raw power of Watson. The Australian allrounder bashed five sixes and six fours as he raced to his half-century from 20 deliveries. With David Warner quietly playing the support role the innings reached 64 for no loss after five overs when Mendis entered the attack.
Watson lifted the mystery spinner for six, but was then caught in the deep for 57 – from 24 deliveries.
Three overs later and Australia were reeling, reduced to 75 for four after Shaun Marsh and Warner fell victim to Mendis and Rangana Herath removed David Hussey – batting at number three. Warner went to an incredible team catch in the deep where Mathews – just before falling over the rope – juggled the ball to Jayawardene to send the left-hander on his way.
Captain Cameron White did his best to rescue the chase with 39 from 31 deliveries, but with Mendis returning to snare Steve Smith and Brad Haddin in the space of two balls – and Mitchell Johnson removed shortly afterwards – the writing was on the wall for Australia.
Steve O’Keefe was then run out in the dying moments as Australia were left stranded on 149 for nine after their full allotment.