The scorecard: Australia 6-168 (Finch 43, Malinga 2-29) lost to Sri Lanka 5-172 (Gunaratne 52, Turner 2-12, Zampa 2-26) by five wickets with zero balls remaining
The match in a tweet: Sri Lanka win a thriller at the MCG! A boundary off the final ball hands the tourists a 1-0 series lead
The final over: The equation was simple. Six runs needed, six balls left, Andrew Tye bowling to Seekkuge Prasanna. The first ball: a dot; the second: one leg bye. Two singles, followed by two runs levelled scores. With one run needed off the final ball, Chamara Kapugedera struck a boundary through cover to seal victory for the tourists.
The hero: Playing in just his fifth T20I and with a previous high score of 11no, Asela Gunaratne produced an outstanding 52 off 37 balls to set up a Sri Lankan victory. Coming in at a tricky time when Sri Lanka had lost their second wicket, his task became harder when the set Dilshan Munaweera departed soon afterwards. But the 31-year-old kept his composure – despite copping a James Faulkner delivery in a delicate area - thrilling the strong Sri Lanka contingent in the MCG crowd as he brought up his maiden T20I half-century from just 34 balls, bringing the equation down to a run-a-ball in the process. He couldn’t see if through to the end, stumped off the bowling of debutant Ashton Turner, but he’d done enough.
The return of Malinga: After almost a year out of cricket due to injury and illness, Sri Lanka superstar Lasith Malinga is finally back. He bowled the opening over of the match and while he didn’t have the immediate success he had in Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s XI clash when he produced a superb yorker with his fourth delivery, he did a brilliant job of pegging Australia back late in their innings. He removed Travis Head and Ashton Turner in consecutive deliveries and while James Faulkner denied him a hat-trick, he finished his four overs with an impressive 2-29.
The consolation effort: Sri Lanka were cruising at 1-62 at the end of the power play when Australia skipper Aaron Finch threw the ball to Adam Zampa. The leg-spinner’s first over went for just five runs and his second for seven and produced the wicket of Sri Lanka opener Niroshan Dickwella, who lobbed a leading edge to short third man to depart for a 25-ball 30. His next over brought the big wicket of Dilshan Munaweera, who had been flying along at 44 off 29. Zampa ended his outstanding four-over spell with 2-26.
The starts: Plenty of Australia’s batsmen got starts in their 6-168, but none were able to go on to build a significant innings. Finch top-scored with a 34-ball 43, sharing a handy opening stand with debutant Michael Klinger (38). After the pair departed, Travis Head was given a life on four when Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga dropped a straightforward chance, going on to add 31 from 23 balls before holing out, while Moises Henriques (17 off 13) and Ashton Turner (14 off 7) didn’t go on with speedy starts.
The knock 36 years in the making: It was a long time coming, but once handed his maiden Australian cap, Michael Klinger settled in as though he’d been there all his life. Equally comfortable against seam or spin, he took on the role of aggressor early, helping Australia pass 50 in the seventh over before mishitting a Lakshan Sadakan wrong’un in the 11th over to depart for a 32-ball 38.
The tough night out: Big Billy Stanlake had a T20 international debut he’d probably rather forget. His first two deliveries were adjudged to be wide, before his third prompted a loud shout for lbw from the hosts, only for it to be turned down. However, ball tracking suggested the 204cm quick had been unlucky to miss out on his maiden T20 wicket. His fortunes were no better in his second over, with his first three deliveries dispatched to the boundary by Dilshan Munaweera. What should have been the final delivery of his over bounced high over Niroshan Dickwella’s head for five wides and Dickwella then scooped the following delivery for six – more on that next - capping off a 24-run over for the tourists. Brought back on for a third over, Stanlake was more composed, finishing with 0-42.
The shot: Sri Lankan opener Dickwella mimiced his predecessor Tillakaratne Dilshan with this outrageous ramp shot off the bowling of Stanlake that went all the way for six.
The cat-and-mouse game: Finch and Sri Lanka’s Seekkuge Prasanna found themselves engaged in an interesting game of cat-and-mouse during the 10th over of Australia’s innings. Finch pulled out of his stance on the fourth ball of the over, then Prasanna did the same in his run up. But the Australian had the last laugh, ultimately dispatching the ball back over the Sri Lankan leg-spinner’s head for six.
The stat: During his innings of 43, Finch became just the third Australian man to pass 1,000 T20I runs. He was also the second fastest ever to reach the milestone, getting there in 29 innings. Only India superstar Virat Kohli did it quicker, in 27 knocks.
The debutants: Klinger's long wait for an international cap ended when he was named as one of three debutants alongside Scorchers teammate Ashton Turner and towering quick Billy Stanlake, the 36-year-old becoming the oldest Australian to make his T20 debut in the process. Australia's all-star coaching staff for the series completed the presentations; Klinger received Australian cap No.84 from an emotional Justin Langer, Stanlake was handed cap No.85 from his Strikers coach Jason Gillespie, and Turner received cap No.86 from Ricky Ponting.
The wash up: Sri Lanka take a 1-0 lead in the three match series. Next, the action shifts an hour south-west of Melbourne to the city of Geelong, where the teams will meet in the second T20I on Sunday at 7.20pm AEDT.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), Michael Klinger, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Ashton Turner, Tim Paine (wk), James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Billy Stanlake
Sri Lanka XI: Dickwella, Malinga, Munaweera, Tharanga, Gunaratne, Prasanna, Sanjaya, Siriwardana, Kapugedara, Kulasekara, Sandakan