Clarke, Bracken star in Aussie win

Sydney, February 8:

Michael Clarke top-scored with an unbeaten 77 and Nathan Bracken took five wickets as Australia beat Sri Lanka by 128 runs in a tri-series limited-overs match here today.

Australia scored 253-6 and bowled Sri Lanka out in the 32nd over for 125, meaning Australia picked up a bonus point to move to the top of the standings with seven points.

Bracken took a career-best 5-47. Retiring wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist scored 61, his 54th half-century, including three fours and one six. Matthew Hayden hit 42 to dominate an opening stand of 65 with Gilchrist before Hayden was caught at mid-wicket in the 13th over.

Chaminda Vaas dismissed Ponting (nine) as Australia’s scoring rate slowed, leaving the home side at 88-2 in 20 overs. Gilchrist was out leg before wicket to Chamara Kapugedera at 139-3. Andrew Symonds (12) chipped a catch to extra cover as left-armer Vaas (2-34) completed a strong spell.

Mike Hussey (10) also fell cheaply off Ishara Amarasinghe (2-66). James Hopes made 34 and shared a 63-run stand with Clarke.

Offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan (0-42) was struck in the face by the ball while diving forward at mid-on in the 48th over. He immediately left the field for treatment, but he was able to bat.

In reply, Sri Lanka started badly when openers Sanath Jayasuriya (7) and Upul Tharanga (10) fell in successive balls off Brett Lee and Bracken. Kumar Sangakkara and captain Mahela Jaywardene (6) steadied as they added 39 runs for the third wicket before the skipper was caught behind off Mitchell Johnson, reducing Sri Lanka to 57-3.

Sangakkara (42) continued to anchor the Sri Lanka innings but Bracken struck in the 20th over when he trapped the left-hander LBW, as the visitors collapsed. Sri Lanka’s middle-order lost two more wickets in the next two overs Brad Hogg removed Chamara Silva (7), then Bracken had Chamara Kapugedera (0) caught at slip.

Left-armer Bracken also had Tillekeratne Dilshan (14) caught at long-off to claim his fourth wicket and the paceman removed Muralitharan in his ninth over to end the match. The first two games of the triangular series were washed out, between Australia and India on Sunday and India and Sri Lanka two days later. The tri-series resumes on Sunday with Australia playing India at Melbourne.