Josh Hazlewood took 4-12 on his return from a long injury layoff as world champions Australia began the post-Justin Langer era with a comfortable 20-run T20 victory over Sri Lanka in Sydney on Friday.
Langer was always going to miss the five-match series, opting to rest after a long stint on the road, but his shock resignation last weekend cast a shadow over the lead up.
With interim coach Andrew McDonald at the helm, Australia were restricted to 149 for nine in their first T20 since winning the World Cup in November.
But top-class bowling from Hazlewood, Pat Cummins (1-32) and Adam Zampa (3-18) denied the visitors, who were chasing 143 to win after one over was lost to rain.
“Nice to get the win. I thought we had to bowl well to defend that total, it wasn’t the easiest wicket to bat on," said Australia skipper Aaron Finch.
“We probably left ourselves a little bit short with the bat, but an unbelievable performance from our bowlers."
Sri Lanka made a slow start with Mitchell Starc bowling a maiden to open before Hazlewood, in his first match since the opening Ashes Test against England in December, pounced.
He dismissed Danushka Gunathilaka for one, ruining the opener’s return after a ban for breaching Covid-19 rules during a tour of England last June.
Avishka Fernando smashed a towering six off Cummins but he was tempted into another big hit off the next ball and skied it to Matthew Wade.
Struggling at 37 for two off eight overs, Pathum Nissanka (36) and Charith Asalanka (16) plundered 15 off the ninth over from Starc to haul them back into contention before Zampa removed both in the space of three balls.
It swung the momentum back in Australia’s favour and Sri Lanka never recovered with Wanindu Hasaranga (13) and Dinesh Chandimal (25 not out) the only other batsmen to reach double figures as they ended on 122 for eight.
“We had a lot of positives with the bowling and in the field, but the batsmen didn’t get any partnership going which is a concern," said Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka.
Earlier, Ben McDermott hit 53 for Australia after Shanaka won the toss and sent them into bat.
McDermott, in the side for David Warner who is being rested ahead of Australia’s upcoming tour to Pakistan, started to wind up in the fifth over, crunching the first six of the day off Hasaranga.
But the world’s number one T20 bowler worked his magic four balls later with a googly to break the opening partnership and bowl Finch for eight.
Debutant Josh Inglis joined McDermott before light rain forced a 29-minute delay.
When they returned McDermott blasted a huge six off Shanaka to pass his previous high score of 35 in his 18th international, steering Australia to 75 for one at the halfway mark before Sri Lanka got back in the game.
Inglis (23) departed to Chamika Karunaratne and Glenn Maxwell only lasted five balls, caught off Hasaranga going for a big hit.
The dangerous Hasaranga then removed Steve Smith for nine, before Karunaratne trapped McDermott after he brought up his maiden T20 international half-century.
Marcus Stoinis slogged an entertaining 30 before the impressive Binura Fernando removed him and Wade in successive balls as Australia lost its last eight wickets for 69 runs.