Brisbane, Mar 4: Australia survived a late order assault from Sri Lanka to win the first of the best-of-three finals by 15 runs at the Gabba here on Sunday.
[Scorecard: Australia vs Sri Lanka, First Final, Mar 4]
Chasing a mammoth 322, Sri Lanka fell short by 15 runs, being bowled out for 306 in 49.2 overs. They needed 16 runs off the final over bowled by Shane Watson with one wicket remaining. Lasith Malinga attempted for a big hit in the second ball and was caught at deep square-leg by Michael Hussey in front of a poor turnout of 12,196 spectators.
It was another thrilling finish for the second successive game between these two sides. On Friday, in Melbourne, Sri Lanka won by nine runs in the final over of the match to seal a spot in the finals.
The second final will be played on Tuesday in Adelaide.
Watson and Brett Lee took three wickets apiece while David Hussey, with his off-spinners, emerged on top with four wickets.
Australia were in control of the proceedings till the 31st over when Sri Lanka were in deep trouble at 144/6 in 30.1 overs. However, Nuwan Kulasekara (43-ball 73) emerged as the unlikely batting hero for the Islanders to bring them back into the game. He, along with Upul Tharanga (60) put on 104 runs for the seventh wicket in just 11.3 overs to set up a tight finish.
Towards the end, the hosts held their nerve to go 1-0 up in the three-match finals.
Australia's main trio of fast bowlers went for plenty. James Pattinson conceded 49 in five overs without a wicket while Ben Hilfenhaus was stopped after four unsuccessful overs of 46 runs. Lee, who took three, also was not spared, giving away 59 in nine overs.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, even though missing out on wickets, was economical in his 10-over spell with 39 runs.
Sri Lanka's pursuit of the big target did not take off on a positive note. They kept losing wickets at regular intervals. They had lost half of their side with just 125 runs on the board.
The match swung dramatically, thanks to Kulasekara's career best effort. His hurricane knock took them closer but due to lack of specialist batsmen towards the final overs, they could not overhaul the target. It was Kulasekara's second ODI fifty. He hit three sixes and seven boundaries. Kulasekara was dropped on 58 by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Daniel Christian.
D Hussey removed Kulasekara in the 42nd over with the score on 248. His departure brought huge relief to captain Clarke and his men as the right-hander had threatened to take the game away from the hosts.
After Kulasekara's exit, it was left to the last recognised batsman in the middle, Tharanga to keep the hopes alive. He perished in the 46th over as the required run rate kept mounting.
Dhammika Prasad too played a part in the chase with a 21-ball 31 and remained unbeaten.
Australian opener David Warner was the Man-of-the-match for his magnificent 163.
Australia Innings: Warner shines with 163
Left-handed opener David Warner struck a fine 163, his highest ODI score, as Australia posted 321/6 in 50 overs.
It was Warner's show all the way as he powered his way to 163, his maiden ODI ton, before being dismissed off the final ball of the innings. His score is also the highest individual effort at the Gabba, erasing Englishman David Gower's 158 not out against New Zealand in 1983.
Warner's previous ODI best was 74 and today, he made the sixth highest score by an Australian in the 50-over format.
Warner, who was under pressure to retain his place after an unimpressive series, finally came good when it mattered. It was not one of his knocks full of big hits. He preferred to pace his innings nicely in the beginning and when the opportunity came, he accelerated. In the end, he had scored more than run-a-ball, taking 157 balls for his knock.
Coming into the finals, he had 195 runs with one half century in eight innings. The way he handled Lasith Malinga was excellent. Prior to this innings, Malinga had troubled Warner in the series and this time the left-hander took 23 runs off 17 balls from him including a six.
He hit 13 boundaries and two sixes and was also involved in a century opening stand with another left-hander Matthew Wade.
The highest successful chase at the Gabba is 284 by the West Indies against Australia in 1997.
Captain Michael Clarke made a quick 37 off 25 balls and Michael Hussey contributed an unbeaten 19 off 10 balls in the final overs. The hosts scored 91 runs in the final 10 overs.
Dhammika Prasad was the most successful bowler with two wickets for 51 in seven overs. Malinga was the most expensive bowler, going for 74 runs for his one wicket in eight overs. Nuwan Kulasekara was hit for 60 runs for one wicket in his 10 overs. Farveez Maharoof (1/64) and Rangana Herath (1/36) also took one wicket apiece.
Sri Lankan batsmen will find it tough against the Australian pace attack of James Pattinson, Brett Lee and Ben Hilfenhaus.
Earlier Report: Rain halts play after 28 overs
Australian openers made a strong start before rain halted play in the tri-series final against Sri Lanka at the Gabba here on Sunday.
The hosts were on course for a big total as they reached 158/1 in 28 overs when the players had to leave the field due to rain.
This was the second rain interruption after Australian batting charge was halted by a drizzle in the 11th over. Matthew Wade and David Warner started off in fine fashion after captain Michael Clarke won the toss.
The duo raised the first 100-plus partnership of the tri-series. Wade, after reaching to his half century, was dismissed by Nuwan Kulasekara in the 24th over. Wade made a 72-ball 64 and was involved in a 136-run partnership with Warner.
It was an excellent catch by Rangana Herath that ended Wade's fine innings. Fielding at long-on, Herath pulled off a one-handed catch at the boundary. He took a few steps backwards and put his left hand out to take a stunning high catch and stayed inside the boundary before falling onto the ground. This was the best catch of the series so far.
Until this match, both Wade and Warner had struggled to contribute in a big way and they chose the right time to come good.
Warner is still going strong on 81 off 87 balls with seven boundaries and two sixes. He is joined by Shane Watson (8). The pair will resume once the rain stops.
Toss Report: Australia win toss, to bat
Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and chose to bat against Sri Lanka in the first of the best-of-three tri-series finals here at the Gabba on Sunday.
Clarke returned to the side after a game's rest in place of Peter Forrest. Brett Lee also comes back at the expense of Clint McKay.
Sri Lanka, hit by injuries, were forced to make three changes. Farveez Maharoof, Dhammika Prasad and Upul Tharanga are playing, in place of Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Sachithra Senanayake.
Sri Lanka had beaten Australia three times in four games in the league stages.
There is a chance of rain later in the day, according to the forecast.
If a winner is spotted in the first two matches, the third and last game of the finals will not be played.
The second final is slated for March 6 in Adelaide and it will host the last game as well, if necessary, on March 8.
Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), Shane Watson (vice-captain), David Warner, Daniel Christian, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brett Lee, James Pattinson, Xavier Doherty.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Farveez Maharoof, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera, Dhammika Prasad.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Paul Reiffel (Australia)
Third Umpire: Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Match Referee: Chris Broad (England)