Australia ease past Sri Lanka in T20 but small MCG crowd concerns Maxwell | Australia cricket team

Glenn Maxwell hopes a poor crowd for Australia’s Twenty20 win against Sri Lanka was more to do with Covid-19 and not with the public’s loss of appetite for international cricket.

Just 13,175 people turned out for Friday night’s match, the fourth of the five-match series, making it the lowest crowd for a T20 international ever at the MCG. There were similar poor turnouts for the first two games of the bilateral series at the SCG last week.

After the highs of the blockbuster Ashes series, when big crowds packed out stadiums for all five Tests, the T20s against a largely unknown Sri Lankan squad were always going to be a hard sell for Cricket Australia. But the sight of the MCG’s Great Southern Stand being completely shut as the home side made it four wins from four was not a great look.

“I did notice that when I came out for the warm-up, it was probably the first time for an international game I’ve seen that,” Maxwell said of the famous stand not being open. “You can understand why people are staying at home.

“We’ve had a pandemic going on for two full years now and people are still probably a bit wary of going out. With the end of Covid-19 hopefully so close to being in sight, hopefully people can get the confidence to come out and enjoy a good show out there.”

The crowd would have been much lower if was not for the strong Sri Lankan community in Melbourne. Sri Lankan fans made up about three quarters of those watching, with the Ponsford Stand at the city end of the ground looking more like the middle of Colombo. They went home disappointed, though, after Josh Inglis continued his impressive start to international cricket, powering Australia to a six-wicket win.

The Western Australian has looked at ease since debuting at the start of five-match series and this was no exception. Chasing Sri Lanka’s mediocre total of 139 for eight, Inglis and Maxwell (48 not out) put on a match-winning 71-run stand for the fourth-wicket after Australia’s top-three failed to fire.

Maxwell brought up the winning runs with 11 balls to spare, with Australia now eyeing a clean-sweep in Sunday’s series finale. Inglis was in sight of his maiden international half-century, but was out for 40 after edging to Dinesh Chandimal behind the stumps.

A recognised wicketkeeper, Inglis has come into Australia’s team as a batter only with veteran Matthew Wade hanging on to the gloves. But his blazing knock of 40 from 20 balls at No 5 will give the Australian selectors plenty to ponder ahead of the T20 World Cup defence in October. The innings added to the 26-year-old’s other scores of 23, 48 and 21 in this series.

“He’s a sponge for information, takes everything on board from the conditions and tries to adapt to it,” Maxwell said of Inglis. “In Australia, it’s probably a little bit easier to play spin but his footwork patterns are really crisp, uses his feet well, sweeps both sides so makes it a handful to set a field against. He’s able to access different parts of the ground to put pressure on opposition, which is a massive key to facing spin in any part of the world.”

Australia’s experiment of using all-rounder Ashton Agar to open the batting with Ben McDermott has yielded average results. Finch, one of Australia’s greatest white-ball openers, batted at No 3 for the second-straight match. McDermott was out for nine, while Agar struggled to build any momentum with his hitting and made a sluggish 26 from 31 balls.

Sri Lankan opener Pathum Nissanka looked the man most likely in their innings but could never fully blaze away during his knock of 46 from 40 balls. Kane Richardson (two for 44) and returning quick Jhye Richardson (two for 20) picked up wickets, while Australia’s outstanding work in the field led to two run-outs.

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