Going 2-1 up into the fourth ODI, Australia were the favourites to clinch the match, and it with it the series, as they had the momentum going their way. And, the Aussies did not let things slip, coming up with a brutal all-round showing to leave the hosts gasping for breath. First, their bowlers came in all guns blazing to restrict Sri Lanka to a total well below par at Dambulla. And, when it was their turn with the willow, the batsmen ensured that they did not give Sri Lanka even an inch of a chance. Even as a few wickets fell in a clutter, Australia were always well ahead in the game, and stayed there till the end.
Batting first, it was imperative for Sri Lanka to put up a big score on the board, knowing Australia's batting prowess in the format. For that to happen, they were depending heavily on their two form batsmen of the series, Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal, more so with Tillakaratne Dilshan having retired. But, both fell cheaply, Mendis to John Hastings and Chandimal to Scott Boland, which put Sri Lanka on the back foot early in the game. Before those two crucial dismissals, Mitchell Starc had also chipped in with his mandatory early wicket, dismissing newcomer Avishka Fernando. The wickets left Lanka struggling at 31 for 3.
Sri Lanka recovered to an extent thanks to Dhananjaya de Silva, who was sent up to open instead of the retired Tillakaratne Dilshan. And, even as the hosts ended up losing the match, the 76 contributed by de Silva was definitely one of the big positives from the match for Sri Lanka. What hurt Sri Lanka's momentum big time was the recurrence of Angelo Mathews' calf injury, just as he had got his eye in. He had to retire hurt, ending his partnership with de Silva abruptly, and the latter's dismissal soon after, to Hastings, put Australia well ahead in the contest. The lower order chipped in, but Hastings' six meant a lot of damage was done.
The only way Sri Lanka could have stayed alive in the contest was if they got early wickets, just like the Aussie bowlers had done early in the day. But, while the innings began with a maiden to the struggling David Warner, Aaron Finch was in a different zone, thumping the bowlers all over the place from the word go. While he narrowly missed out on equalling AB de Villiers' record for the fastest fifty ever, he did end up registering the joint fastest half-century by an Aussie, off merely 18 balls. The knock completely took the sting out of Sri Lanka's bowling, and put Australia well ahead in the chase.
The only time Sri Lanka looked like they were in the contest was when left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana bowled an unplayable spell to claim three big wickets. After ending Finch's whirlwind knock, he also blew away the clueless Warner and Usman Khawaja in quick succession to have the Aussies in a spot of bother. But, the experienced George Bailey, who guided the chase in the last game, once again came to the team's aid. After a flowing start, he settled in, and his partnership with Travis Head, made sure there were no further hiccups for the world champions. Australia ended up winning in 31 overs by six wickets, a fair indication of their domination.
--By A Cricket Analyst