Sri Lankans Angelo Mathews and Muttiah Muralitharan celebrate the final runs at the MCG [GALLO/GETTY]

Australia's unconvincing build-up to the Ashes took another hit on Wednesday as a superb ninth-wicket partnership by Angelo Matthews and Lasith Malinga steered Sri Lanka to a remarkable one-wicket victory over the hosts at the MCG.

Sri Lanka were reeling at 107 for eight chasing 240 to win when Mathews and Malinga combined in the 26th over, taking on an Australian attack that has started showing a lack of ability in putting teams away.

Mathews hit an unbeaten 77, and Malinga put on a dominant display of batting to claim an unlikely victory. The partnership was finally broken when Malinga was run out for 56 with the scores level at 239, leaving tenth man Muttiah Muralitharan to hit the winning boundary.

The result leaves the Aussies without a win in any form of the game since victory over Pakistan at Lord's in the first Test in July. They have not won a series of any sort since beating New Zealand in a two-Test series at the end of March and this is far from ideal preparation for the start of the Ashes series against England in Brisbane next month.

"Very disappointing"

"I honestly don't know how we lost that game," said Michael Clarke, who stepped in as captain in place of an absent Ricky Ponting.

"Very disappointing ... just seems to be right at the end when we get close to winning matches, we just can't seem to get that win over the line."

It had looked like being left arm spinner Xavier Doherty's night as he took four wickets and engineered a stunning run out on his debut to put the hosts in the driving seat.

Mathews and Malinga had other thoughts, however, and they sprayed the ball around the Melbourne Cricket Ground with abandon to exceed Kapil Dev and Syed Kirmani's ninth wicket stand of 126 for India against Zimbabwe in 1983.

"Early on, we never thought of winning the game, just wanted to bat on and see how it goes,'' Mathews said.

"Lasith was excellent. It was so easy to bat with him - he did the job for us."

Angelo Matthews

"Lasith was excellent. It was so easy to bat with him -  he did the job for us.

"When we started close to about 25 to 20 runs, then we thought we might actually have a chance. We just wanted to keep going and were not worrying about the score.''

Sri Lankan paceman Thisara Perera earlier took five for 46 but Michael Hussey belied his recent poor form with an unbeaten 71 as Australia rallied to 239-8.

The Australians, beaten by seven wickets in a Twenty20 match against the Sri Lankans in Perth on Sunday, were cruising at 85-1 until Perera claimed three wickets in eight deliveries.

Clarke (27) and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (49) went to superb catches from Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan before Cameron White was skittled for a golden duck.

Doherty enjoyed his own eight-delivery spell to rival Perera's, first trapping Mahela Jayawardene leg before in his first over and having Chamara Silva caught by Shane Watson and bowling Sangakkara in successive balls in his second.

Source: Agencies