Perera, Mathews humble India
Sri Lanka 139 for 1 (Tharanga 59*, Dilshan 50) beat India 138 (Gambhir 65, Perera 3-19, Mathews 3-14) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
For the first three overs on a blustery afternoon in Hambantota, Sri Lanka looked thrown. Running in through strong winds, their opening bowlers found rhythm elusive and lines hard to control. Lasith Malinga got no movement; the debutant Isuru Udana's first over comprised 11 balls and contained 16 runs; there were careless overthrows and misfields; and India scored 31 for 0 with barely a risk. And then Thisara Perera, in the midst of his best home summer, changed everything and turned Sri Lanka's quest to draw level in the series into a cruise.
Perera made the ball swing in the air and seam off the surface. He did not bowl grenades, but he did not need to. Against accurate lengths and stingy lines, India's batsmen weren't far from playing an impatient shot. Perera took a wicket in each of his first three overs without conceding a run, and he could have had a fourth had Angelo Mathews not dropped MS Dhoni at first slip. His spell of 3-3-0-3 left India on 41 for 4 after eight overs, a slide that did not subside.
As India collapsed like an undercooked cake at one end, Gautam Gambhir held the other up. He'd begun with a crisp square drive and a flick off the pads as early as Malinga's second over, but his steadiness was swamped by the ineptness of his team-mates. He nearly became the first India player to carry his bat in a one-day international but was the last man out, for 65.
Having dismissed India for 138 in the 34th over, Sri Lanka had nine overs to bat before the dinner break. The wind was still blowing in Hambantota, and Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan capitalised on several loose deliveries to score 64 before the interval. The remaining 75 was added without much alarm as well, though Dilshan's dismissal prevented Sri Lanka from achieving their first ten-wicket victory against India in ODIs.
The momentum shift after Dhoni won his second toss in two games, and chose to bat in favourable conditions, had been sudden. It occurred when Perera lunged to his right, throwing his large frame against the momentum of his follow through, to catch with both hands a loose push from Virender Sehwag. In his second over, Perera got rid of the bogeyman by inducing a thick edge from Virat Kohli, who had hundreds in his previous three innings against Sri Lanka. He made 1 today after failing to execute a steer to third man.
Perera hurt India further in his third over. Suresh Raina hung his bat outside off stump, reaching for the ball angling across him without fluent footwork, and played on. A ball later, he found another edge, off Dhoni's bat, but it was put down at first slip.
Mathews, who had extended Rohit Sharma's wretched run by bowling him off the inside edge for a duck, soon made amends for his gaffe. He got the ball to bounce off a good length, cramp Dhoni for room on the cut and take the edge to Sangakkara. Between those edges, Dhoni had played two fluent off drives against Perera for boundaries.
After Irfan Pathan holed out to Perera at mid-off, Gambhir and R Ashwin put on 28 for the seventh wicket before a comical run-out ended the partnership. Having cut the ball towards third man, Ashwin wanted a third but was sent back. His turning radius was so large and his movement so slow that he failed to cover the short distance even though he dived. Gambhir looked on in despair. Sri Lanka ended the India innings well before dinner; the only pity was there were so few people to watch their clinical performance.
The crowd was bigger when Sri Lanka began their chase and the sound of celebratory trumpets was ever-present. The hosts could have lost Dilshan on 1 but Sehwag grassed the edge off the attempted booming drive against Irfan. India barely had another opportunity. Dilshan scored at more than a run-a-ball despite hitting only four boundaries. Tharanga, in contrast, hit fours more frequently, freeing his arms to play the drive and the cut when given room outside off stump.
Both India's left-arm bowlers - Zaheer Khan and Irfan - bowled wayward lines in the wind. Between them, they conceded 14 runs through wides. There were 24 extras in all. India were a beaten side before the dinner break and Dilshan flicked the first ball after resumption to the midwicket boundary, continuing Sri Lanka's inexorable march towards victory, which was achieved with 30.1 overs to spare.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo