Speak softly and carry a big bat.
Unassuming all-rounder Asela Gunaratne produced an epic T20 innings on Sunday night in Geelong that snatched the match away from Australia’s grasp.
Chasing Australia’s 173, Sri Lanka slumped early to 5-40.
With three overs left, they still needed 48 and then 36 off the last 12 balls.
In those final two overs, Gunaratne mauled Moises Henriques and Andrew Tye with three fours and four sixes, including the match-winning four off the last ball of the match.
Gunaratne’s 84no, his highest T20 international score, came off just 46 balls and featured six fours and five sixes.
More importantly, it was the second time in three days that Sri Lanka had beaten Australia on the last ball of the match, giving them the series win ahead of Wednesday’s third and final game at Adelaide Oval.
Asked if it was his best innings, Gunaratne smiled bashfully and said “yes” in Sinhalese.
He certainly wasn’t shy after hitting the winning runs, jumping for joy and punching the air before teammates ran out onto the ground and mobbed him.
Speaking through an interpreter, Gunaratne felt Sri Lanka was a chance if he could bat through to the end.
He spoke matter-of-factly about the strategy he came up with for the last two overs.
“My plan was to try to close the gap, by getting about 20 runs in quick time,” he said.
“When I got 22 (off Henriques), I felt it was well within reach – so it really worked to what I was thinking.”
Gunaratne again smiled when told how simple he made it sound.
“It certainly wasn’t easy, but you have to come up with some plan and this time, it worked,” he said.
“I’m very happy with what I did – I was planning to finish the match, at all costs.
“The fact we won the series was the greatest satisfaction.”
Teammate Dilshan Munaweera said they were like supporters in the last couple of overs, in awe at Gunaratne’s powerful hitting.
“He made our dream come true because we wanted to win this series,” Munaweera said.
Australian captain Aaron Finch said Gunaratne played “a hell of an innings”
Gunaratne also top-scored with 52 in Friday night’s win at the MCG.
“Geez, he hit some clean, didn’t he?,” Finch said.
“He hasn’t mis-hit a ball in two games now.
“When you have a guy who’s in like that, it’s so hard to defend.
“That was definitely up there.”
The game only attracted 13,500 fans, with unseasonably cold and wet weather obviously a factor.
But a large and rowdy contingent of Sri Lankan expats again were prominent, staying for more than an hour after the match to celebrate the win.