Charith Asalanka’s maiden ODI century and an inspired spin attack led Sri Lanka to a thrilling four-run series-clinching win over Australia on Tuesday.
The left-handed Asalanka made 110 to guide Sri Lanka to 258 all out, a total that proved just enough to hand the hosts an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series in Colombo.
Opener David Warner’s 99 went in vain as Australia were bowled out for 254 and the island nation won its first bilateral series against the Aussies in over a decade. They last won in 2010.
Spinners Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeffrey Vandersay and fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne, who was the only regular seamer in the team, took two wickets each.
Pat Cummins’ late cameo of 35 and a 12-ball 15 by No 10 Matthew Kuhnemann, who hit three fours as Australia needed 19 from the 50th over, gave Sri Lanka a scare.
Earlier, Asalanka rescued Sri Lanka from a precarious 34-3 as he put on 101 runs with Dhananjaya de Silva, who made 60.
The Australian bowlers kept coming back with crucial wickets, but Asalanka reached his century to the cheers of a raucous home crowd that jumped to their feet to applaud the knock.
Wanindu Hasaranga played a useful cameo of 21* as he put together 34 runs for the eighth wicket with Asalanka.
Asalanka finally fell to Cummins and Australia soon wrapped up the innings in 49 overs with two run-outs.
In reply, Australia lost skipper Aaron Finch for nought with Karunaratne trapping the opener lbw.
Warner kept his cool and put on 63 runs with Mitchell Marsh, who looked good for his 26 before he fell to Dunith Wellalage’s left-arm spin.
Australia lost Marnus Labuschagne and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey after they got starts but fell to the Sri Lankan spinners.
The usually attacking Warner held fort to try to grind down the opposition attack as he got Travis Head for company and the two stitched together 58 runs for the fifth wicket.
De Silva bowled the left-handed Head for 27 and Maheesh Theekshana got Glenn Maxwell trapped lbw for one with a successful review after the on-field umpire denied the appeal.
But the big moment came when the left-handed Warner missed out on his ton after getting stumped off De Silva as the home team celebrated the key wicket.
Cameron Green and Cummins attempted to turn the chase on in a 31-run stand but Vandersay bowled Green.
Cummins departed in the 49th over, but Kuhnemann fought till the end before getting out on the final ball.
The final match is on Friday at the same venue.