The rapid reaction: A late scare for Australia, but George Bailey led the way in the run chase to hand the tourists a two-wicket win and a 2-1 series lead before the return bout in Dambulla on Wednesday. Dinesh Chandimal anchored Sri Lanka’s innings to collect his first ODI ton on home soil, but it wasn’t enough to send retiring great Tillakaratne Dilshan off in style.
The hero: For the second time in as many matches, Bailey found himself walking to the crease in the Power Play after the loss of both openers. With time on his side, Bailey worked the gaps as needed in a sweep-heavy display on the spin-friendly wicket. It was a mixture of conventional and the reverse in crucial partnerships alongside Travis Head (62-run stand) and Matthew Wade (61 runs) on his way to the 20th half-century of his career. A deflection off his pad on to off-stump ended a fine knock on 70 with the tourists 23 runs short of the target, but the hard work has been done.
The regret: After the early departure of David Warner, Australia were looking to Aaron Finch to lead the way as he did in the series opener at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The powerful right-hander looked in ominous touch on his way to 30 at better than a run-a-ball, before a moment he was left to regret. Coming around the wicket, left-arm tweaker Amila Aponso angled one into the opener's pads and the enthusiastic appeal was rewarded by umpire Aleem Dar. A brief chat with non-striker Shaun Marsh followed, but with his partner's view unable to replicate that of Dar's, Finch selflessly opted not to make use of Australia’s sole DRS referral. And the Victorian was left to rue that decision back in the pavilion when the television replay showed the delivery going on to miss leg stump.
The breakthrough: Chandimal entered the third ODI in some serious form having scored five half centuries in his previous six ODIs at an average of 71.6, as well as an unbeaten 100 against Ireland in June. However the wicketkeeper-batsman had been left waiting for a one-day ton on home soil - until last night. The 26-year-old withstood the early strike power of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood on his way to 130-ball knock of 102 to give the hosts something to bowl at with 226 on the board. Chandimal also brought up 3000 runs career runs during his knock, in his 106th innings, becoming the fourth-fastest Sri Lankan to the mark behind Upul Tharanga (93), Marvan Atapattu (94) and Mahela Jaywardena (104).
The observation: While Australia conceded enough extras – 10 leg byes and eight wides – for Xavier Tras to be Sri Lanka’s third-highest scorer of the innings, both sides managed to maintain an impressive run of discipline when it comes to bowlers landing their front foot behind the crease. The umpires on duty for the three 50-over matches so far have not yet been called upon to swing their arms for a free hit due to a complete absence of no balls.
The talking point: After the major announcement about his future during the week, Dilshan was met with a guard of honour from his teammates as the veteran opener walked out to the middle for the final time in ODI cricket. The veteran showed glimpses of the brilliance that he has displayed throughout a 17-year career that has yielded 10,290 runs, with a pair of drives down the ground on both sides of the wicket and a flourishing flick to the square-leg boundary the highlights. His farewell was cut short on 42 from 65 deliveries when an Adam Zampa full toss could only venture as far as George Bailey at mid-wicket. With a bow and a rapturous applause from the crowd, he was gone - at least until he’s back in a week for his Twenty20 international swansong.
The catch: It was a reasonably eventful return to the 50-over format for Shaun Marsh, although the scorecard won’t necessarily say as such. The Western Australian held on to a superb diving grab at mid-on off James Faulkner’s bowling, but it was the catch from his own bat later in the evening that created a talking point, at least for those supporting the tourists. Marsh chipped a drive towards Chandimal running in from mid-off and Sri Lanka’s first-choice gloveman celebrated his diving effort wholeheartedly. The umpires weren’t as convinced so third umpire Michael Gough was called upon for his thoughts and while the replays didn’t appear to provide conclusive evidence either way, there was enough in the vision for the finger to be raised and Marsh was on his way.
The wash-up: The series is there for the taking for Warner’s men heading into the fourth match at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium on Wednesday. The tourists may be without their permanent skipper in Steve Smith, but Sri Lanka must now push forward without their most experienced batsman as they aim to keep the series alive.