Left-hander Phil Hughes hit his second one-day century Wednesday to give Australia a fighting chance to level the series against Sri Lanka.
The diminutive opener cracked 138 off 154 balls out of Australia’s total of 247 for five wickets. Playing his last game as captain, Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene sprung some surprises in fine weather at the Bellerive Oval.
He won the toss but put Australia in to bat on what looked an easy flat wicket and threw off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan the new ball.
It was unorthodox but he was quickly rewarded with three maidens and an early wicket.
Dilshan found some unexpected grip and stunned David Warner who pushed an outside edge onto off-stump with the score on 31. Warner made 10 off 18 balls.
There was little or no swing for Nuwan Kulasekara but Matthew Wade, on 23, missed a straight ball and was given out lbw.
Australia, missing skipper Michael Clarke, who failed a late fitness test on a twisted ankle, looked in trouble again with two wickets down for 37.
Sri Lanka seized a 2-1 lead in the five-match series on Friday bowling out Australia for just 74 runs in Brisbane. The tourists had also looked favourites to win the fourth leg before a rain wash-out at the Sydney Cricket ground on Sunday.
In Hobart, the Sri Lankan attack tied up the Australian stand-in captain George Bailey and Hughes could not break free either as the overs went by.
Hughes had a let-off with a mis-hit that rolled onto his stumps but failed to remove the bails.
It seemed to spark him into life and a steady 50 came up off 82.
Thisara Perera broke the Hughes-Bailey partnership of 60 off 100 balls when he caught and bowled the latter for 17 off 43 balls.
Hughes was paid handsomely for his gritty patience and started to find the boundaries in the final overs.
David Hussey tried to stay with him but Perera ran him out off his own bowling going for an invisible run.
All-rounder Glenn Maxwell threw the bat and was duly caught at extra cover off Lasith Malinga for 9.
But Hughes was cashing in, adding a towering six to his 13 fours.
“I’m proud,” Hughes said as he left the field. “It’s nice to get a chance in one-day cricket.
“When I got to 50-60 I was finding it tough to score, but I got a few at the back end.”
Sri Lanka face a required run rate of 4.94.