Mitchell Johnson’s six-for and half-centuries from Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting did the trick for Australia as they romped to a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Wednesday’s first ODI at the Pallekele International Stadium.
The hosts were never in the contest in the wake of Johnson’s haul, which reduced the opposition to 191 all out and left the tourists with an easy chase.
Shane Watson, in typically brash fashion, wasted no time at all in taking the attack to the bowlers, with midwicket fetching its fair share of sixes courtesy the right-hander’s characteristic swipes off one knee.
The big-hitting opener landed half a dozen sixes in all, with spinner nor seamer spared of the half-centurion’s savagery. It took a clever change of length and a touch more turn from Suraj Randiv to end the carnage, with Watson sent packing on the sweep for 69 off 51 deliveries.
With Haddin outfoxed by Ajantha Mendis for 12 and Watson back in the pavilion kicking himself for not converting a near sure thing to three figures, captain Clarke and his predecessor took their cue for a period of watchful cricket.
Late to the tour following the T20I unit’s two defeats without them, the duo set to acclimatising themselves to conditions with a plethora of singles and twos milked around the ground. With home captain Tillkaratne Dilshan curiously opting not to bowl Mendis through his full complement of 10 overs and the seamers proving ineffective, the going was entirely easy for the right-handers.
Their 101-run stand came at a consistent rate of 4.39 to the over and so workmanlike was Clarke, that he drew on just one boundary across his 53 not out from 78 balls. Ponting, meanwhile, accrued five fours across his 53 in 71 deliveries. The former captain fell at the last hurdle when his sweep shot served only to trickle the ball onto the stumps.
Mike Hussey, toying with all and sundry’s time and emotions, dragged himself through a couple of defensive overs, with Clarke eventually sealing the deal through long-on with all of 71 deliveries to spare.
Earlier Johnson celebrated his 100th one-dayer in Australian colours in style, climbing to ODI career-best figures of six for 31 as the hosts floundered their way through 41.1 overs.
Spinners Xavier Doherty and David Hussey did the initial work for the hosts. The left-armer got rid of the dangerous Dilshan for 29, while the right-armer sent Upul Tharanga – Sri Lanka’s star at the World Cup – for 34 on the dry surface.
54 without loss quickly became 89 for four when the old guard of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put together a collective failure. The former skippers managed just 19 runs between them and started the rot that Johnson continued.
The southpaw seamer delivered a largely full length and cashed in on a string of shoddy shot selection from the home side’s middle- through lower-order, with ill-timed flat hits to mid-off and midwicket the downfall of a slew of Sri Lankan batsmen.
Suraj Randiv (41) – for his lusty blows in the face of adversity – and Nuwan Kulasekara (34) offered some brief resistance with their 60-run rearguard stand for the eighth wicket – but Johnson’s return to the attack soon resumed the inevitable.
Brett Lee got in on the wickets belatedly, clinching his 350th ODI scalp by getting rid of Kulasekara in the deep to have Sri Lanka all out for a score 60-odd runs shy of what captain Dilshan wanted upon winning the toss.
The hosts rested Lasith Malinga, nursing a back problem, but the pace ace looks a certain pick as Sri Lanka aim to bounce back in Sunday’s second ODI in Hambantota.