Thisara Perera was the difference with the bat and then held his nerve, although only barely, with the ball to seal a two-run victory off the final delivery of a rain-reduced chase. In a heated finale, Glenn Maxwell needed four runs from the last ball for victory and was frustrated by a long conference held by several Sri Lanka players before the delivery was bowled, and when Perera sent down the ball wide of off Maxwell missed and all the batsmen could manage was a bye.
The Sri Lanka players were jubilant but there were tense scenes as the players walked off, Maxwell clearly annoyed at the Sri Lankans, and even the handshakes involving players who weren't on the field at the end became testy. It became that kind of night when rain interrupted Australia's chase of 162 and despite the shower being short, the umpires did not allow play to restart for 45 minutes due to difficulties drying the outfield.
When the rain arrived after 10 overs, Australia were 15 runs behind on the Duckworth-Lewis score at 2 for 60. By the time play resumed at 10.49pm Australia needed a further 62 runs from five overs. With Shaun Marsh and George Bailey well set and eight wickets in hand, the new target of 122 from 15 overs gave Australia hope of pulling off victory.
However, Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara proved especially difficult to score off and while Bailey and Marsh managed to find 16 runs from Lasith Malinga's only remaining over, and 12 off an over from Ajantha Mendis, they were left needing 18 from the final over to be bowled by Perera. The loss of Bailey, caught at deep midwicket for 45 from 36 balls, left 16 required from four balls with the new batsman Maxwell at the crease.
Perera briefly appeared to lose his nerve and sent down a no-ball above waist height that helped the Australians and Maxwell then struck a pair of fours through the off side to leave four needed from one. Fortunately for Sri Lanka, Perera managed to deny him that boundary.
Australia's chase had started poorly with the loss of David Warner for 7 in the second over when he tried to thump Kulasekara through the leg side but succeeded only in sending a leading edge to mid-off. That was followed by the departure of his opening partner Aaron Finch for 7 in the fifth over, lbw to the first ball Mendis bowled when he tried to sweep a straight delivery.
After five overs the Australians were really struggling at 2 for 24, not helped by Marsh being unable to find the gaps. He was nearly run out and caught in the same over and appeared severely lacking in confidence until he managed to clear long-on during Akila Dananjaya's first over and followed it with a boundary through the gap at wide midwicket. But Marsh and Bailey couldn't get Australia far enough advanced in their chase when the rain came.
But really it was the final five overs of Sri Lanka's innings that made the difference as Mahela Jayawardene and Thisara Perera put together an unbeaten 59-run partnership from 28 balls. That pushed the total from what looked like being 140ish to a much more competitive 4 for 161, and left Australia needing the highest successful chase in a T20 international in Australia.
Jayawardene finished unbeaten on 61 from 45 deliveries and Perera on 35 from 15, justifying the captain Angelo Mathews' decision to send Perera in ahead of himself. Ben Laughlin, who struggled to restrict the Sri Lankans in the final few overs of the first match in Sydney, again had a hard time bowling at the death and conceded 20 runs from the last over of the innings.
That over started with a reverse sweep for four that brought Jayawardene his fifty from 42 balls. It also included two more fours to the vacant third-man area from Jayawardene and a top-edged six from Perera, leaving Laughlin with 1 for 40 from his four overs.
James Faulkner, who had bowled a terrific initial spell of 1 for 3 from his first two overs, also suffered at the hands of Perera and Jayawardene in the later stages. He was struck over midwicket for six by Perera, as well as dabbed delicately over short fine leg for four, and Faulkner finished his four overs with 1 for 24.
The Sri Lanka top order had struggled in the first half of the innings as Australia's bowlers used clever variations and took wickets to help keep the runs down. Faulkner picked up his first international wicket in the third over of the match when Tillakaratne Dilshan tried to pull his slower ball and played on for 6 off 10 balls.
None of the Sri Lanka top three managed a strike rate of better than a run a ball as they failed to pick the pace of the bowling, or the gaps in the field. Dinesh Chandimal fell victim to a change in pace from Laughlin, whose first ball of the game was a slower delivery that Chandimal smoked through cover for four. But in the same over Laughlin's quicker bouncer hurried Chandimal, who lobbed a catch to mid-off.
Kushal Perera, who had struck three crisp boundaries including two in a Mitchell Starc over - Starc struggled with his line and sent down four leg-side wides - fell for 15 when he tried to slog Glenn Maxwell over the infield. The ball flew very high off the top edge and nearly struck the hovering Spidercam, and provided a very tricky swirling catch for the cover fielder Bailey, who ran almost a complete circle as he tried to track the ball and successfully completed the take.
After ten overs the Sri Lankans were 3 for 56 and it wasn't until the 12th over of the innings that the first six was struck, when Jayawardene slammed Maxwell straight down the ground. Jayawardene began to find his touch but was lucky to survive a run-out chance on 36, when Jeevan Mendis dropped the ball at his feet and took off for a run and the bowler Laughlin had Jayawardene well covered - except he failed to pick up the ball.
Mendis fell for 25 from 24 balls when he drove Xavier Doherty hard and flat and was caught at long-off by Faulkner, ending a productive 63-run partnership with Jayawardene that had been important in rebuilding the Sri Lanka innings. To keep the left- and right-hand combination going, Thisara Perera was promoted ahead of Mathews and the results were good for Sri Lanka.