Sri Lanka have tuned up for their three-match T20 series against Australia in style by dispatching a Prime Minister's XI in Canberra.
Set 170 for victory, the Sri Lankan openers came out all guns blazing and put 69 on the board in the first six overs in Wednesday night's tour match at Manuka Oval.
Chief destroyer Niroshan Dickwella smashed eight fours and an audacious six scooped over third man on his way to 47 off 26 deliveries as he and stand-in skipper Upul Tharanga dominated the powerplay.
An attempted paddle sweep brought about Dickwella's demise and he was caught behind off 18-year-old offspinner Arjun Nair.
That brought Dilshan Munaweera (32 off 19) to the crease as he linked up with Tharanga for a 53-run partnership.
With Sri Lanka looking destined for victory, part-time spinner D'Arcy Short (2-19 off three overs) picked up Milinda Siriwardana (25) and Chamara Kapugedera (0) in successive balls and nearly had a hat-trick with Seekkuge Prasanna beaten all ends up by a full delivery.
But it was too late for the home side, with the tourists cruising home to win by five wickets with 17 balls to spare.
Sri Lanka's poor fielding had cost them after winning the toss and electing to bowl, with PM's XI captain Adam Voges (54no) and Sam Heazlett (58) scoring half-centuries after being dropped early in their innings.
Voges, playing in the match marking the end of his international career, confidently pushed the ball around Manuka in front of more than 7500 people, hitting four fours and one six.
After almost a year out of cricket due to illness and injury, Lasith Malinga took four balls to find his range, knocking Short's middle stump out of the ground.
The delivery was an immediate reminder of the potency Malinga poseses, wtih the searing inswinging yorker almost unplayable.
The delivery will not have gone unnoticed by the Australians, who this week identified Malinga - well known to Big Bash audiences for his record six-wicket haul with the Melbourne Stars - as a dangerman in the three-match series.
Quick Single: Aussies wary of Malinga return
Vikum Sanjaya was the pick of the bowlers and was crowned man of the match for his 3-26 off his four overs, while Malinga finished with 1-26 after getting the ball to swing early and finding the mark with his yorkers.
Sri Lanka travel to Melbourne for the first match against Australia on Friday night before the series moves to Geelong on Sunday and finishes in Adelaide on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford it was important to start on a winning note.
"We've had quite a bit of travel over the last three days ago. For the boys to get out and play pretty well was important," Ford said.
Ford said Malinga spent a lot of time during the fielding innings speaking with Sanjaya while he was bowling.
"A guy like Malinga makes a huge difference," he said.
"To have somebody like that at his side encouraging him and helping him and advising you just can't get better."
Heazlett said Sri Lanka had used the slower ball well, but the side felt they had made a competitive total
"It was a good total definitely defendable but they batted really well," Heazlett said.
"We probably could have improved in the field and with our bowling and even batting as well."
PM's XI: D'Arcy Short, Joe Burns, Sam Heazlett, Hilton Cartwright, Alex Carey, Adam Voges (c), Jason Sangha, Arjun Nair, Daniel Worrall, Henry Thornton, Harry Conway. Matthew Gikes (12th man)
Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella, Lasith Malinga, Dilshan Munaweera, Isuru Udana, Upul Tharanga (c), Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vikum Sanjaya, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedera, Dasun Shanaka.
Australia v Sri Lanka T20 series guide
February 17: First T20, MCG, Melbourne
February 19: Second T20, Kardinia Park, Geelong
February 22: Third T20, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
All three matches are double headers with the women’s T20 internationals between Australia and New Zealand
Veteran batsman Michael Klinger is set to make a long awaited-debut for his country after being named in Australia’s 13-man squad, which will be led by Aaron Finch. With Australia’s Test stars currently in India preparing for their four-match series, the squad includes uncapped Perth Scorchers pair Jhye Richardson and Ashton Turner and towering Adelaide Strikers fast bowler Billy Stanlake. Strikers opener Ben Dunk earned a call-up when Brisbane Heat master blaster Chris Lynn was ruled out due to a neck injury. Justin Langer is head coach in the absence of Darren Lehmann, with able deputies Ricky Ponting and Jason Gillespie stepping in as batting and bowling coach respectively.
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ben Dunk, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Michael Klinger, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Billy Stanlake, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa
Lasith Malinga is set to make his return to international cricket after being named in Sri Lanka’s 15-man squad.
Malinga last played for his national side more than 12 months ago, taking 4-26 against the UAE in an Asia Cup T20 match before again succumbing to injury.
Meanwhile, Upul Tharanga has been named Sri Lanka's new skipper in lieu of the injured Angelo Mathews, while Dinesh Chandimal has been dropped from the Sri Lanka T20 squad that claimed a historic T20 series win over South Africa last month.
Sri Lanka squad: Upul Tharanga (c), Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunarathna, Dilshan Munaweera, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardena, Sachith Pathirana, Chamara Kapugedara, Seekuge Prassanna, Nuwan Kulaskera, Isuru Udana, Dasun Shanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Vikum Sanjaya
Australia: Last 5 matches (most recent first): WWLWW
Sri Lanka: Last 5 matches (most recent first): WWLLL
Last time they met
Australia pulled off a two-nil T20 series win over Sri Lanka last September in commanding fashion. The first match in Kandy at Pallekele Stadium saw Australia romp to an 85-run win, thanks to a magnificent unbeaten 145 from Glenn Maxwell which propelled the tourists to the huge total of 3-263.
Then, the tourists pulled off a four-wicket win with 13 balls to spare at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium. Having restricted Sri Lanka to 9-128, the run chase was shaping up to be a complete domination thanks to a rampaging Australian top-order, before it somehow became a tense victory after a fightback from the hosts. But the match was most notable for the record-breaking antics of Maxwell, who brought up the equal-fastest T20 international half-century by an Australian, from 18 balls, while Adam Zampa took 3-16 from four overs and leaked just the single boundary.
Overall, Australia have won four of their 10 T20Is against Sri Lanka, having lost five consecutive matches to the island nation prior to last September’s two-nil series win.
The new/old skipper
What a summer it's been for Aaron Finch. The Victoria batsman was dropped from Australia’s ODI squad for the series against Pakistan, only to be recalled when David Warner was rested for the one-day tour of New Zealand that followed. He then found himself captain of that ODI side, after fellow Bushranger Matthew Wade was ruled out due to a back niggle. Having lost the Australia T20 captaincy in the lead-up to the World T20 in India last year, Finch finds himself in charge once again with his replacement Steve Smith absent on India Test tour duties.
The new Aussie faces
Almost two decades after making his domestic debut, Klinger has finally earned the international call-up he feared might never come. The 36-year-old was in fine form yet again for Perth Scorchers during BBL|06 and there will be plenty of people eager to see how he grasps his first opportunity in the green and gold. Towering quick Billy Stanlake is in line for a T20 debut to follow the 50-over call-up he received in January thanks to good form for the Strikers during BBL|06, while 20-year-old paceman Richardson has been given his first opportunity in an Australian squad after his player-of-the-match heroics for the Scorchers in the BBL final. Fellow Scorcher Turner is also in line for a debut after impressing with both bat and ball throughout Perth’s campaign.
The danger men
In-form opener Niroshan Dickwella was the star of Sri Lanka's historic T20 triumph in South Africa last month, getting his side’s innings off to a flying start in the second T20 with a speedy 22 off 15, before smashing a 51-ball 68 in the third match.
Left-arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan also impressed in his maiden T20 outings, snaring a match-winning 4-23 to restrict the Proteas to 113 in the second match. He was economical again in the third, taking 1-23 off his four overs. Having ripped apart Australia in the first Test in Kandy last July, taking 7-107 for the match, the hosts will know to be wary of the 25-year-old.
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