• Australia v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Sydney

Kulasekara wickets in vain thanks to Sydney rain

The Report by Daniel Brettig at the SCG
January 20, 2013 « Ferguson eyeing another treble | Chartbeat test »
Australia 222 for 9 (Warner 60, Starc 52*, Kulasekara 3-30) v Sri Lanka 14 for 0 - match abandoned
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Nuwan Kulasekara took three wickets for 30 runs in a superb display of swing © Getty Images
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If it wasn't 74, it still wasn't pretty. Australia's batsmen were again exposed by the moving ball in the hands of Sri Lanka's seamers before the fourth ODI at the SCG was washed out.

The Sri Lankan chase was at first delayed, then abandoned due to an outfield tardy in drying, after only 3.2 overs. At 14 for 0, the visitors stood a strong chance of overhauling the target and claiming the series.

As it is, Australia are left with a feeling as unsatisfying as that experienced by the 22,521 spectators who were informed of the abandonment around 9pm local time. There are plenty of recurring questions about the hosts' batting and they can no longer win the series themselves, their best hope a 2-2 tie after the final match in Hobart on Friday.

Taking strike under overcast skies at the SCG after Michael Clarke won the toss, the Australians were confounded once more by the swing of Nuwan Kulasekara and a fast, swerving spell from Lasith Malinga. Rangana Herath wheeled away in a typically fastidious stint of slow left-arm.

Kulasekara's 3 for 30 was another immaculate display of swing at a shade sharper than medium pace, giving him a series return of 10 wickets at 12.90 thus far. It would take a particularly unobservant English seamer not to notice those numbers ahead of the Ashes.

Of the batsmen only David Warner looked secure at the crease, though Mitchell Starc won the admiration of the SCG for a doughty rearguard. Australia's struggles were heightened by a pair of poor decisions from the umpires Marais Erasmus and Paul Reiffel after Clarke had burned his team's sole DRS referral with a wishful request to overturn his own lbw verdict.

Needing to win the match to avoid a series defeat in four matches, Clarke named a team unchanged from the XI who were reduced to a humiliating 40 for 9 in Brisbane on Friday. Kulasekara had rended Australia's batting at the Gabba, and he was to make critical breakthroughs again in Sydney. First he drifted a ball across Phillip Hughes, opening up the left-hander and coaxing an edge through to Chandimal, who took the gloves while Kushal Perera remained in the XI as a batsman.

Clarke and Warner prospered for a time, Sri Lanka wasting their one review on an optimistic lbw appeal against the latter, but the ball continued to curve and at 50, the captain played around a delivery that moved into him and was pinned in front of the stumps. His attempt to have the call overturned showed only that the ball had struck him in line and would have plucked middle stump.

A twitchy David Hussey was set up and knocked down by Malinga, who pushed the batsman back with a series of well-directed short balls then conjured an away swinger that found the edge and was held on the juggle by Lahiru Thirimanne in the slips. Hussey's No. 4 post in the batting order appeared a position or two higher than his technique can presently stand. Bailey played down the line at similar deliveries bending away late and, after struggling to score early, started to form a useful stand with Warner, who played with calm, precision and power throughout. However, Herath teased out a presumptuous drive by Bailey, leaving Warner the hosts' only hope of a decent tally.

This was a strong innings by Warner, who punched a pair of superb cover drives through Herath's neatly set fields. But on 60, he played Thisara Perera from the crease and was struck on the pads via an inside edge which was both audible and visible. This deflection somehow evaded Erasmus' detection, and Warner could barely contain his fury when marching off the ground.

The New South Wales allrounder Moises Henriques was similarly wronged by Reiffel when Herath won an LBW verdict from a ball pitching in line and straightening but also taking bat before pad, leaving Clarke and the rest of the dressing room to ponder the use of their one ODI referral in future.

Starc and Matthew Wade resisted in the latter overs, but their efforts succeeded only in lifting Australia from the embarrassing to the merely mediocre - hardly the bar Clarke's team had been striving to reach after their Brisbane misadventures. The rain offered plenty of time to ponder their shortcomings.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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