Six-hit Fernando sinks England
Sri Lanka 211 (Silva 73, Broad 3-36) beat England 104 (Fernando 6-27) by 107 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Dilhara Fernando's stunning career-best 6 for 27 secured Sri Lanka a consolation 107-run victory in the final one-day international in Colombo. Their total of 211 again appeared under par, but Fernando took it upon himself to save some national pride with the fifth-best figures by a Sri Lankan in one-day cricket. From a promising 56 for 2, England lost seven wickets in 51 balls, however they still go away with the main prize.
Although a few of England's batsmen gave their wickets away - notably Kevin Pietersen when his mind and feet wandered across the stumps against Chaminda Vaas - the credit must go to Fernando. He has caused problems throughout the series with his split-finger slower ball and the delivery did for Ian Bell and Owais Shah on this occasion. Sri Lanka had never lost four one-day internationals on the bounce in their own backyard and Fernando ensured they wouldn't register an unwanted record.
England's capitulation came as a surprise because for the first half of the game they'd produced another top-notch effort with the ball. Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad led the way as the quick bowlers caused Sri Lanka problems after a rapid start, but Chamara Silva battled his way to 73 to give his team - or as it turned out mostly Fernando - something to bowl at.
Phil Mustard ended his first international series with an edge off Vaas and Kumar Sangakkara - aware there were no slips - flung himself to his right and clung onto the ball in the webbing of his left glove. Mustard has scored less than 100 runs in the series, not enough to make him an automatic selection when Matt Prior is fit again, but he hasn't looked out of place.
Bell has come back down to earth after his prolific series against India, regularly starting his innings in promising style before falling to a loose shot. The trend continued here when he clipped a Fernando slower ball to mid-on, although the bowler deserves credit for deceiving another batsman. Alastair Cook was shaping to play a similar style innings to his 80 in the fourth game, but after settling down for 47 balls he edged an expansive drive at Fernando and Sangakkara held his second blinder of the innings.
Fernando was now charging in with real purpose and nailed Paul Collingwood for 2 as he was trapped on the crease for the second innings running. Whereas Collingwood was done for pace, Fernando's fourth - Shah - was brought about by expert deception as he spooned a slower ball to cover.
Those two wickets sandwiched a dramatic end to Vaas's spell. Pietersen had taken up the charge with three consecutive boundaries in his ninth over, but Vaas had the final say when Pietersen walked across his stumps and missed a straight ball. Pietersen's bravado is one of his major strengths, but it was poor judgment and poor timing. This time England weren't going to be bailed out by the lower order.
Broad has performed some rescue acts in his embryonic career, but this was a challenge too far and he spooned Fernando into the leg side to hand him his first five-wicket haul in ODIs. Number six followed two balls later when Sidebottom chopped into his stumps and Fernando could do no wrong. It came too late to save the series, but a few markers have been laid down for the Test series in December.
With the series lost Sri Lanka had come out with a different mindset as Sanath Jayasuriya and the debutant Dilruwan Perera, who replaced the struggling Upul Tharanga, flayed 45 for the first wicket before Jayasuriya spooned James Anderson to mid-off in a repeat of Wednesday's dismissal. Sidebottom put the brakes on with two wickets in four balls, Perera nibbling outside off stump and Mahela Jayawardene collecting his second duck in two innings with a leading edge to mid-on.
The attack didn't suffer from Collingwood's absence after an early collision with Jayasuriya aggravated his shoulder problem. Shah picked up Kumar Sangakkara, bowled round his legs out of the rough, although Rudi Koertzen initially signalled a wide before the third umpire restored sanity. Bopara benefited from an extended bowl, performing Collingwood's wicket-to-wicket role, and at 159 for 7 Sri Lanka didn't appear likely to post 200.
But Silva brought up his half-century off 79 balls, his second in consecutive innings, and managed nine of Sri Lanka's 14 boundaries. The pattern of earlier matches suggested it had given the home side enough to make it a tight contest - Fernando's blitz meant the match ended 20 overs early. However, while Sri Lanka started and ended with emphatic victories England take the series and on foreign soil that it is a notable achievement.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo