Australia’s “best of the Big Bash League” took Sri Lanka to the final ball. The hosts and their three debutants fought to the finish against the visitors in front of a raucous crowd at the MCG, but a win offered Sri Lanka the chance to wrap up the series at Kardinia Park on Sunday.

The Perth Scorchers’ Andrew Tye was left with six runs to defend from the final over, and one from the final ball. Chamara Kapugedara surveyed the ring field then punched the winning boundary through the covers to secure the result. His composure ensured Sri Lanka finished in the ascendant after looking the more likely victors throughout their chase, largely due to a boundary count that outstripped the hosts, 21 to 13.

None of Australia’s batsmen were able to go on to substantial scores after Upul Tharanga sent them in to bat, as a spongy pitch and disciplined Sri Lankan bowling denied them the ability to find a domineering rhythm. Sri Lanka’s pursuit was then given the desired fast start by Dilshan Munaweera after Tharanga was dismissed in the first over, and Asela Gunaratne’s nimble half-century guided the tourists to within sight of victory in front of 42,511 spectators, many of them barracking for Sri Lanka.

Gunaratne also made a brief but notable contribution with the ball, goading the captain Aaron Finch into a skier after he had appeared the man most likely to produce a truly damaging tally for Australia. The dismissal came two balls after Finch had hammered the biggest six of the night, and 10 runs after Michael Klinger’s long delayed international debut was ended.

Lasith Malinga, making his own return from a long absence, bowled tidily and scooped a couple of late wickets, while Seekkuge Prasanna gave up a mere 23 runs from four overs that featured 10 dot balls and should have been rewarded with the wicket of Travis Head – dropped badly by Tharanga at point.

Tharanga’s night did not improve when he opened the batting, as he received a perfectly pitched ball going across him from Pat Cummins in the first over and offered a thin edge through to Tim Paine behind the stumps. While the Australians celebrated this wicket with some gusto, they were soon haring about the MCG outfield as Munaweera and Niroshan Dickwella went to work.