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04 March, 2012

Australia won by 15 runs

Australia won by 15 runs

Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series 1st final, Brisbane
Lee bowls Australia into strong position
The Report by Brydon Coverdale
March 4, 2012

Brett Lee bowled Australia into a powerful position at the Gabba, where Sri Lanka required something special from their remaining batsmen to have any hope of winning the first final. They also needed the rain to stay away, which was no certainty, for their Duckworth-Lewis target crept higher with every wicket that fell, and at the 25-over mark they were 4 for 123 chasing 322 for victory.

Lahiru Thirimanne was at the crease on 13 and Upul Tharanga, in his first match back after being dropped earlier in the series, was on 5. They had held some hope while Kumar Sangakkara remained in the middle but his departure for 42, caught when he lobbed a ball to mid-off in the first over of Lee's second spell, was a big blow.

Sangakkara had been under pressure to lift the tempo as the required run-rate crawled up towards 7.5 an over, the loss of early wickets having stifled Sri Lanka's scoring. Mahela Jayawardene was caught behind for 14 when he pushed at a delivery from Lee and his opening partner Tillakaratne Dilshan followed in Lee's next over.

Dilshan had picked up five boundaries in his 27 from 22 balls but his innings ended when Lee nipped one through the gate as Dilshan tried for a big drive. Sangakkara took to James Pattinson with three consecutive boundaries and shared a promising partnership with Dinesh Chandimal until Chandimal cut David Hussey's first delivery straight to backward point for 14.

The four top-order wickets left a lot of work for the middle and lower orders and just as much of a concern was the need to lift the scoring rate. There have been some impressive chases in this series, but Sri Lanka would need to top them all to get out of this hole.

50 overs Australia 6 for 321 (Warner 163, Wade 64) v Sri Lanka
David Warner's first ODI century pushed Australia to the second-highest total ever recorded in a one-day international at the Gabba and left Sri Lanka needing something special to win the first final. Warner was out from the last ball of the 50th over, bowled for 163 attempting to slog Dhammika Prasad, and it left Australia at 6 for 321, three runs short of the ground record.

Warner and Matthew Wade gave Australia an outstanding start with a 136-run opening partnership and although Wade fell for 64, Warner went on and made the most of the platform. It had been a disappointing series up until this innings for Warner, who made his name as a Twenty20 player for Australia and this summer scored two Test hundreds, but had struggled to find his way in the 50-over format.

He brought up his century with a fortuitous edge to the third-man boundary from his 111th delivery and celebrated with the now-familiar Warner high leap and punch of the air. It was a more restrained innings than many of Warner's limited-overs efforts but that was no bad thing, and he still had the confidence to go for his shots when the bowlers gave him the opportunity.

Warner was especially strong with his drives down the ground, which were generally timed to perfection, and he also pulled with power from midwicket to long-on. He pounced on the overpitched length from Dhammika Prasad, who was recalled for his third match of the tournament, and sent consecutive balls down the ground for fours and followed up with a pull over long-on for six.

He also cleared the square-leg rope with a fine pull off a shorter delivery from Lasith Malinga, and although his scoring rate didn't pick up as much as the fans might have liked towards the end of the innings it was still a wonderful display. He had late support from Michael Clarke, who scored 37 from 25 balls batting at No.6 before he was caught when he mistimed a pull off Malinga's slower ball.

Michael Hussey finished unbeaten on 19, including two sixes, having come in at No.7. The Australian batting order had been tinkered with as Clarke sent Daniel Christian in at No.4 in the hope of making the most of the batting Powerplay, but Christian was caught behind off Prasad for 10. The in-form David Hussey was also promoted but suffered a rare failure when he pushed a return catch to Rangana Herath for 1.

That was a straightforward catch for Herath. His first of the innings wasn't. Wade had fallen to a spectacular, freakish catch in the outfield from Herath, who seemed almost as stunned by his feat as the spectators were. Wade seemed to make good contact with a delivery from Nuwan Kulasekara but at long-on Herath backed back and in a last, desperate attempt thrust his left hand in the air as he fell backwards, plucking the catch one-handed and avoiding the boundary rope as he fell over and held on to the ball.

That ended the opening partnership, easily Australia's biggest in the series. Wade was the aggressor early and 18 runs came off the fifth over, in which he launched Malinga over long-on for six and crunched him through extra cover for four. He was typically strong through the off side and brought up his half-century from his 52nd delivery with a push to the off side from the spin of Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Wade scampered through for a single and Upul Tharanga's direct hit at the non-striker's end allowed the batsmen to take a further two overthrows. After Wade's departure, Shane Watson made 21 and was caught at deep square leg off Maharoof, who had returned to Sri Lanka's side after missing Friday's match in Melbourne due to a back injury.

As it turned out, the part-timer Dilshan was the best of Sri Lanka's bowlers, and while they weren't sloppy in the field, they have still been left with an enormous challenge. But after India's chase in Hobart on Tuesday, this series has shown that anything is possible.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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