Kumar Sangakkara's 192 was the big difference between the scripts in Brisbane and Hobart but Sri Lanka were denied a fairytale ending as Brett Lee grabbed four wickets and Australia secured a 2-0 series victory with their 14th consecutive Test win. Despite a collapse early in the morning when Sri Lanka lost 5 for 25, Sangakkara gave Australia a few nervous moments with an audacious assault that only ended with an unfortunate umpiring call shortly before lunch.
It is hard to predict how close Sri Lanka would have come to the record 507 they needed to win had Sangakkara stayed at the crease, but the way he was playing he just might have got them home. He could have given up once Lee and Mitchell Johnson sparked the early crashes but instead Sangakkara simply altered his game plan and formed a 74-run stand with Lasith Malinga.
Sadly for the visitors Sangakkara was denied his third double-century for 2007 when he tried to hook Stuart Clark and the ball flew off his shoulder to Ricky Ponting at slip. Rudi Koertzen agreed with the Australians that there was some bat involved but Sangakkara, and the replays, knew that was not the case. It was a disappointing finish to a superb display from Sangakkara, who blasted 27 fours and one six in his remarkable innings.
Once he found himself with the tail, Sangakkara refused singles off the first few balls of overs and then when the field came in, he reverted to one-day mode with some clean strikes over the off side. There were a few streaky shots too - thick edges flew to vacant spaces and not everything came off the middle - but it was a courageous fightback from a Sri Lanka outfit that desperately needed some spark.
In the end his assault did not affect the outcome but it let him register the highest score by a Sri Lankan in Test in Australia, beating Aravanda de Silva's 167 in 1989-90, and the highest score in a Test at Bellerive, passing Michael Slater's 168 in 1993-94. It also gave Sangakkara 677 runs for the 2007 calendar year at a phenomenal average of 225.66.
A few late fireworks from Malinga (42 not out) and Muttiah Muralitharan followed - Malinga clubbed three sixes, all off Clark - but Lee finished the job by rattling Muralitharan's stumps and confirming the 96-run victory. Lee's 4 for 87 gave him eight wickets for the match, 16 for the series, the Man-of-the-Match title, the Player-of-the-Series award, and the respect of anyone who believed he could not step into the spearhead's role in the absence of Glenn McGrath.
Fittingly it had been Lee who started the procession earlier in the day - not for the first time this series - by breaking Sangakkara's 107-run partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya. Australia were just at the point where Ricky Ponting might once have looked imploringly to McGrath or Shane Warne, when Lee switched to over the wicket and troubled Jayasuriya, who tried to cut too close to his body and was caught behind for 45.
Sparked by Lee, Australia's attack suddenly became deadly. Johnson found Chamara Silva's edge to slip and had Prasanna Jayawardene lbw leaving a good inswinger first ball. Like Lee on the fourth day, Johnson missed the hat-trick - he slipped it down leg side against Farveez Maharoof - but the script had nearly been finalised.
After Maharoof was run out due to his runner's incompetence in the first innings he had nobody to blame but himself for his dismissal for 4 in the second. Stuart MacGill, who had struggled on the fourth day, dropped one short and Maharoof miscued his pull over mid on, where Lee ran back and took a well judged catch.
Dilhara Fernando followed with a poor piece of running from his first ball. He clipped Clark through midwicket and scored an easy two but Sangakkara wanted the strike and Rhett Lockyear, the Tasmania player who was substituting for Andrew Symonds, provided an excellent throw from the deep to have Fernando caught short attempting the third.
From there it looked like it would be downhill for Sri Lanka. Sangakkara disagreed and gave Australia's new attack a thorough examination in their second Test as a unit. Again they passed the test, maintaining Australia's dominance and their hope of breaking the record of 16 straight Test wins.
Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo