Sri Lanka won the series 3-2.
Chasing a target of 161 in the dead rubber at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium, Australia made life difficult for itself before reaching 164-6 with 63 deliveries to spare.
Sri Lanka had reduced Australia to 50-4 but wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey led his team home with an unbeaten 45.
Carey added 51 runs for the fifth wicket with Marnus Labuschagne and then finished the game off by adding a further 43 runs for the unbroken seventh wicket with Cameron Green, who was unbeaten on 25.
Sri Lanka’s spinners kept striking at regular intervals on a spin-friendly wicket but knew they were playing catchup in defending a low total.
"I thought the series was very hard fought ... They played conditions better and they deserved to win the series," Australia captain Aaron Finch said. "Most of us got starts but we couldn’t get partnerships going. We saw that from Sri Lanka. We had 40 and 50 partnerships while they managed big ones. That was the difference.”
After winning the toss and choosing to bat first, the hosts were out for 160 in 43.1 overs. It could have been a lot worse for Sri Lanka without the ninth-wicket partnership between Chamika Karunaratne and debutant Pramod Madushan which was worth 58 runs.
The pair came together on 85-8 and Sri Lanka was in danger of being bowled out for its lowest total against Australia (91) and the lowest total at the venue (98). However, Karunaratne and Madushan helped the team to rebuild and gave the capacity crowd something to cheer. Some fans wore yellow jerseys to thank the Australian team who toured the island amid uncertainty owing to the economic crisis and political instability. The visitors did a lap of honor after the game as the crowd chanted, “Australia, Australia, Australia.”
Karunaratne posted his first half-century in international cricket and was the last man dismissed for a run-a-ball 75 with eight fours and two sixes. The sixes were off successive deliveries from part-time legspinner Labuschagne.
Apart from Karunaratne, none of the Sri Lanka batters posted a decent score. At one stage Sri Lanka lost four wickets in the space of seven deliveries for the addition of just six runs. That sealed their fate.
Sri Lanka missed the services of Dhananjaya de Silva, the hero of the series-clinching game four, as he was unwell.
The tour is all square heading into the two-match test series, with Australia winning the Twenty20 format 2-1 and Sri Lanka taking the ODI portion.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t pull it off today but really proud of the team for the way we fought back, especially the young players,” Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka said. “It was the momentum that we took from the last T20 game. That set the tone for the ODIs. Our batsmen delivered and even when they didn’t our bowlers kept fighting.”
The first test starts Wednesday in Galle.