Australia needed one top order batsman to capitalise on his strong start in their T20 loss to Sri Lanka.

After Australia made 6-168 from 20 overs on Friday night at the MCG, Sri Lanka looked in control for much of their innings.

But Australia fought back late and the scores were tied with one ball left.

Chamara Kapugedara then hit a boundary off Andrew Tye to give Sri Lanka a five- wicket win.

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The loss again puts the spotlight on cricket's scheduling, with the Australian T20 side missing several big names because of the Indian Test tour.

Still, Australia did a lot right in the first of three games against Sri Lanka.

Their top three batsmen made at least 30 and all the first six reached double figures. But captain Aaron Finch's 43 was the top score.

"Certainly in Twenty20 cricket, your top three or four batters, if you get 60-70 plus, it goes a long way towards winning," said Michael Klinger.

"In that situation, myself and Finchy, who got starts, certainly it would have been nice if one of us got a big score."

Asela Gunaratne top-scored for Sri Lanka with 52 and Dilshan Munaweera made 44.

Finch and Klinger, making his Australian debut, had an opening stand of 76 after Sri Lanka won the toss.

Klinger was dismissed for 38 and Finch went in the following over.

Klinger was one of three T20 newcomers in the Australian team, along with Ashton Turner and Billy Stanlake.

Turner made 18 and his two wickets in the 18th over stopped Sri Lanka in their tracks, leading to the tight finish.

But Stanlake struggled badly - his first two deliveries were wides, followed by a dead ball.

His three overs cost 42 runs, including eight wides.

Legspinner Adam Zampa was the pick of the Australian bowlers, taking 2-26 from four overs.

At 36, Klinger relished his long-awaited international debut - to a point.

"Personally it was great fun out there, to experience that, but it would have been a lot more fun if we'd won," he said.

"We fought back really well in those last few overs to get it to the point we did."

Game two of the series is on Sunday night in Geelong.

"There are certainly areas we can improve on, in all three facets of the game," Klinger said.

"We have a couple of days to get it right again."