Having been thrashed 3-0 in the Tests, Australia recovered brilliantly to club Sri Lanka 4-1 in the one-day series. And, while victory in the Tests cannot mask Aussies' Test failures, the visitors would be pleased to have come up with such an amazing effort in the shorter format of the game. The win reiterated their status as world champions, and proved how hard they are to beat in the version, even without some of their key players. As for Sri Lanka, they lacked the experience or the talent, at least at present, and ended up second best by quite some distance. The 4-1 scoreline was the fair reflection of the difference in the teams.
Even as Australia were not convincing throughout, they found a couple of players who were highly consistent, and did not allow Sri Lanka too many opportunities to be in the game. In the batting, George Bailey stood out, and displayed his class. The former skipper would have been under pressure for he hasn't been a constant fixture in the playing eleven in recent times. But, Bailey stood up to the task, and proved he still has it in him to win matches for the team. Twice in consecutive games, he was like a rock, and guide tough chases. And, in the final ODI, when Australia again found themselves in a spot of bother, he played the perfect support act to centurion David Warner.
In the bowling, left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc was in form from start to end, and carried on from where he left off in the Test matches. Starc has been a different bowler since his World Cup success. But, for him to perform so well in Asian conditions will gladden the team management. Among others, James Faulkner also played a good supporting role, constantly getting wickets and keeping things tight, thus never allowing the Sri Lankan batsmen any breathing space. Significantly, Australia troubled Sri Lanka with spin as well. Adam Zampa was expected to keep things tight at one end, but ended up picking up quite a few wickets. It turned out to be a bit of a bonus for the visitors.
Sri Lanka clearly suffered because they did not have enough pedigree, either in the batting or the bowling department. The mid-series retirement of Tillakaratne Dilshan cannot be seen as a setback, since he wasn't scoring too many. But, Sri Lanka clearly missed him in the sense that there was no one to take on the opposition at the top. Dhananjaya de Silva showed signs of promise in the very first game that he was promoted to open post Dilshan's retirement. But, these are still early days in his career. Danushka Gunathilaka, the other opener, got a couple of starts, but he clearly hasn't been able to establish himself in the team despite constant opportunities.
In fact, if one takes out the efforts of Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chamindal, who were at least decent if not destructive, Sri Lanka clearly did not have much to show with the bat. Skipper Angelo Mathews continued to battle with injuries while Thisara Perera had to be dropped for the final game. In the bowling, Sri Lanka missed someone of the class of Rangana Herath. Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan were the only ones who impressed. But, even they were getting wickets when Australia were trying to push for victory harder than needed. The series defeat was another grim reminder of Sri Lanka's dwindling ODI fortunes.
--By A Cricket Analyst