Lasith Malinga became the first man to take three one-day international hat-tricks as Sri Lanka secured a consolation victory in the final ODI in Colombo. Australia might have won the series 3-2 but with the first Test just over a week away, it was important for Sri Lanka to finish on a high, and they did that through Malinga with the ball, and then Mahela Jayawardene and Chamara Silva with the bat.
Chasing 212, the Sri Lankans lost three early wickets but from then on were in cruise control either side of a rain delay, Jayawardene all but seeing them home with a patient 71, departing with 17 runs still to get when he skied a catch off Xavier Doherty. Silva batted superbly in his 63, but the victory was all down to Sri Lanka's bowling performance, and specifically Malinga's hat-trick and the tail-end collapse that he instigated.
It could be argued that Malinga has taken four ODI hat-tricks, after his double hat-trick - four wickets in four balls - against South Africa at the 2007 World Cup. He picked up three in three deliveries against Kenya at this year's World Cup, and it would have been a brave person to tip against him adding to his tally when Doherty walked out to face the hat-trick ball this time.
Malinga began with a fast yorker that got through Mitchell Johnson's defences and bowled him for 1, and followed up with a low full toss that rapped John Hastings on the pad. Doherty took guard, and must have anticipated another accurate yorker, which was indeed delivered, but he still couldn't get bat on ball.
Doherty's middle stump was rattled, and so were Australia, who in the previous over - the 45th of the innings - had been cruising towards a competitive total, at 210 for 5. Eleven balls later, they had lost their remaining five wickets for the addition of only one more run. It was a remarkable collapse, with Ajantha Mendis taking a wicket either side of Malinga's hat-trick.
The rot started when David Hussey (46), who had just launched Mendis over the long-on fence for six, played back to the next delivery and was bowled for 46. The innings ended with Brad Haddin, on 8, driving a catch to mid-off, and neither the Australians nor the fans in the crowd could quite believe the rapid turnaround.
Things had begun so solidly for the Australians, who were sent in on a pitch expected to offer some assistance for the seamers in overcast conditions. As expected, the ball nipped around a little and in the second over, bowled by Shaminda Eranga, the openers were already in trouble, Shaun Marsh bowled by a lovely inswinger having four balls earlier been dropped at gully by Jayawardene.
In the following over Shane Watson was caught behind off a Malinga no-ball, and it proved to be a somewhat costly miss for the hosts, as Watson went on to post a solid 56 before he top-edged a slog-sweep off Mendis. He had support from Ricky Ponting in a 67-run stand, before Ponting (31) was caught at midwicket when he failed to pick a slower ball from Angelo Mathews.
Michael Clarke compiled another handy yet inconsequential innings, his 47 ending when he tickled behind off Eranga. Not that his opposing captain was any more influential with the bat. Tillakaratne Dilshan was one of three early wickets to fall in Sri Lanka's chase, bowled for 17 when he was beaten for pace by James Pattinson, who sent down an impressive opening spell.
It was Pattinson's first match of the tour as Australia rested Brett Lee and Doug Bollinger, and the other man brought in for this game, John Hastings, made a nervy start as he failed to control the swing of the ball. Hastings was the main culprit as the Australians sent down 15 wides in the first 18 overs of the innings.
Not that anything should be taken away from the batting of Silva and Jaywardene. Silva's 63 was a fine innings from a man who was lucky to hold his place in the side, having made 4, 3, 13, 9 and 0 in his past five ODI innings. He was especially strong when sweeping Doherty, clearing the boundary at square leg once and finding the boundary four more times off the left-arm spinner, including with a powerful reverse-sweep.
Silva's half-century came up off 51 deliveries, but in the end it was the sweep that brought him undone when he found the man at deep square leg off Doherty. The rain came with Sri Lanka well ahead on Duckworth/Lewis, and when play resumed, Jayawardene steered the chase comfortably.
In the end Sri Lanka got home with four wickets and three overs to spare, not that there was ever any doubt. Nor was there any doubt that Australia will enter the Test series happy to have seen the last of Malinga, who doesn't play the longer format. He certainly made a dead rubber bounce into life.