x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

David Warner century powers Australia to first final victory

The opening batsman scores 163 in best of three finals as Australia beat Sri Lanka by 15 runs in Brisbane.

David Warner scored his maiden one-day international century on Sunday.
David Warner scored his maiden one-day international century on Sunday.

BRISBANE // Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, has warned his team they must raise their game if they are to win the Tri-series.

Australia salvaged a 15-run win after snuffing out an unlikely Sri Lanka tail-end comeback in the last over Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals.

Australia can clinch the finals series with a win in Adelaide on Tuesday, but Clarke said they wouldn't stand a chance in Game 2 if they bowled and fielded like they did in the opener.

"We've got to be better than that," he said. "We're supposed to be the No 1 one-day team in the world - we have to execute better than that."

Sri Lanka were down and seemingly out of the contest after slumping to 144 for six in the 31st over, chasing 322 to win, but Nuwan Kulasekara inspired an unlikely fightback with a career-high 73 from 44 balls and combined with Upul Tharanga (60) in a 104-run partnership from 70 balls.

David Hussey ended the partnership in the 42nd over but the lower order continued, with Dhammika Prasad scoring an unbeaten 31 to keep the match alive until Lasith Malinga, the No 11, was out and Sri Lanka were dismissed for 306 in 49.2 overs.

Shane Watson took the last three wickets to finish with three for 33, ending Australia's three-match losing streak against Sri Lanka.

For Australia, David Warner scored 163 from 157 balls, his maiden one-day international hundred, and shared a 136-run opening stand with Matthew Wade (64) to set Australia on course for an imposing 321 for six after Clarke won the toss and elected to bat at the Gabba.

Clarke, who recovered from a back injury to play the match, praised the batsmen for posting a 300-plus total but was disappointed with the bowling in the power plays and in the crunch moments between when Brett Lee (three for 59) and part-time spinner David Hussey (four for 43) got wickets up front and Watson returned in the closing overs to finish off the Sri Lankans.

"Warner and Wade were outstanding at the top," he said. "Watson saved us once again. We are glad to have him back in the team."

With rain threatening throughout the Sri Lankan innings after disrupting play twice while Australia was batting, the Duckworth-Lewis equation loomed as a potentially decisive factor. Falling well behind the target rate when the top order crumbled, the tail-enders got it back within easy range in the last six overs.

"I'm quite happy with the effort … [We] showed a lot of character to get back into it," said Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain. "Obviously we didn't play a perfect game today. They got off to a good start and it was difficult to bring them back - 320 was always going to be a tough score and we lost wickets trying to keep up with the run rate."

Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan started the reply positively, putting on 39 in 4.4 overs before the captain was caught behind off Lee, who also bowled Dilshan (27) and Kumar Sangakkara (42) as Sri Lanka slipped to 115 for four in the 22nd over. Hussey picked up three of the first six wickets to help keep Australia on top before the momentum changed. Kulasekara's seven boundaries and three sixes - including two over deep midwicket off consecutive balls from Hussey just before he got out - restored interest just when the match had threatened to get stale.

Earlier, Warner hit 13 boundaries and two sixes before he was bowled by Prasad with the last ball of the Australian innings.

Warner had a reputation as a big hitter with a rapid strike rate, but had underachieved in his first 18 ODIs, averaging 22.5 with a highest score of 74. The 25-year-old left-hander scored two centuries in six Test matches - a format few predicted he would succeed in due to his heavy hitting - and has now produced the goods in ODIs.

Warner, one of only seven Australians to score 150 or more in an ODI, said he had been confident he would eventually reach triple figures if he played to his instincts and kept looking to score runs.