A stunning fightback with the ball has ignited Australia’s nine-wicket thrashing of Sri Lanka at R. Premadasa Stadium to secure a three-nil series lead in the four-match one-day international series.
Chasing a measly total of 103, openers Nicole Bolton (35) and Elyse Villani – with a career-best knock of 48 not out - were largely untroubled as the tourists maintained their dominance over Sri Lanka and collected two more points in the ICC ODI Championship.
The home side raced out of the blocks after Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars skipper Meg Lanning won the toss and elected to bowl under cloudy skies in Colombo.
With two ducks in as many matches to start the series, wicketkeeper-batter Prasadani Weerakkody looked to make amends with new opening partner Nipuni Hansika.
Weerakkody punished anything loose from Australia’s opening duo of Holly Ferling and Megan Schutt to collect six boundaries in the opening five overs from the pace pair.
With the Sri Lankans cruising along at 0-37, Lanning threw the ball to off-spinning allrounder Grace Harris – included in the XI at the expense of Erin Osborne – before the in-form Kristen Beams made it spin from both ends the following over.
The pair put an immediate halt to the flow of runs and the pressure was building with each turning delivery past the bat.
Shortly after bringing up the side’s first 50-run stand of the series, it eventually became too much for Weerakkody when she was trapped in front attempting a sweep shot to hand Harris the first wicket of the day in the 12th over.
It soon became a steady procession back to the pavilion after the Harris-Beams partnership produced miserly figures of 1-25 during their 15 overs operating in tandem.
The introduction of Jess Jonassen’s left-arm orthodox yielded instant results with Nipuni Hansika well caught by Alyssa Healy prior to the first drinks break, but the Stars ‘keeper was then forced from the field due to illness with vice-captain Alex Blackwell taking the gloves for the remainder of the innings.
Jonassen was back in the action when Chamari Polgampola – Sri Lanka’s lone hand in the second ODI – became the tweaker’s second victim, lbw for 3.
Schutt returned to the attack and picked up the wicket of Eshani Lokusooriya, while captain Chamari Atapattu was showing what she’s capable of with a trio of boundaries to offer some resistance to the rampaging tourists.
But she was soon on her way for 15 after one big shot too many, becoming Jonassen’s third scalp with the safe hands of Elyse Villani under the skied sweep shot.
Following a four-over spell of 3-1, Jonassen was replaced by Ferling as Lanning looked to wrap up the innings after failing to do so in Dambulla on Tuesday.
The tall quick struck a double-blow as Ama Kanchana and Udeshika Prabodhani were brought undone by some short-pitched bowling without scoring.
Ellyse Perry was the next Star to get in on the act after a late introduction to the attack with Harshitha Madavi’s pull shot only going as far as Harris at mid-on for 9.
After a frugal spell to turn to the match earlier in the morning, Beams was finally rewarded when Lanning took a superb catch diving to her left to dismiss Sugandika Kumari and the leg-spinner finished the innings off a short time later when Inoshi Fernando’s top edge fell safely to Holly Ferling.
Sri Lanka lost their last six wickets for just 20 runs to waste a golden opportunity to test the reigning world champions on a surface conducive to spin bowling.
Harris (1-23 off 10 overs) and Beams (2-20 off 8.5) were the pick of the bowlers for the Australians and Jonassen (3-1 off 4) made the most of the pressure they applied, while Ferling (2-27 off 6) and Schutt (1-23 off 5) showed greater discipline in their second spells.
Following a brief intermission between innings, Bolton and Villani made a watchful start to the pursuit of the 103-run target.
The Western Australian duo stayed patient with time on their side and found the boundary when the hosts offered anything that deserved to be sent to the fence.
Bolton was bowled through the gate by Inoka Ranaweera for 35 with victory in sight, before Villani and Lanning (9) finished the job with more than 22 overs remaining.
Australia will be aiming to make it a series clean sweep when the two teams return for the fourth and final ODI back at Premadasa Stadium on Sunday.
Fourth ODI*: R. Premadasa Stadium, 25 September at 2:20pm AEST
T20: SSC Ground, 27 September at 6:30pm AEST
*ICC Championship matches
You can follow regular updates from Australia's tour match, four ODIs and T20 in Sri Lanka at @SouthernStars on Twitter.