MELBOURNE: Sri Lanka held their nerve to end India's late bid for a tri one-day series finals spot with a gripping nine-run win over hosts Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday.
The Sri Lankans dismissed David Hussey with five balls to spare, clinching their place in the best-of-three match finals against the Australians, which starts in Brisbane on Sunday.
World Cup champions India, who narrowly failed to leap-frog Sri Lanka into the finals after a sensational run-chase in Hobart last Tuesday, will return home this weekend after a dismal tour of Australia.
Sri Lanka triumphed in a thrilling game which saw medium pacer Dan Christian take a hat-trick for Australia, before the visitors -- defending a low total -- bowled out the Australians with five balls to go.
Hussey hit a run-a-ball 74 and finished the group stage of the tournament as the top runscorer among the the three teams with 412 at an average of 82.40.
Lasith Malinga finished with four for 49 as skipper Mahela Jayawardene chopped and changed his eight bowlers to defend Sri Lanka's below-par total.
It was Sri Lanka's third consecutive victory over Australia in the series, making them favourites for the finals.
“The boys showed character (after the loss to India),” Jayawardene said.
“It was fantastic support, it's like playing in Sri Lanka. We lifted our game. I'm sure the crowd will follow us now, the lift that we got (from them), it pushed us in the last few overs.”
Although requiring just 4.7 runs an over after dismissing Sri Lanka for an low total, the Australians, led by Shane Watson in the absence of rested skipper Michael Clarke, struggled under pressure.
Watson scored 65 off 83 balls and Mike Hussey 29 off 56, but it was David Hussey, who almost got Australia home with his skilfull farming of the strike with the tailenders.
“A brilliant game of cricket... you never knew who was going to win. Dave Hussey batted beautifully, as he's shown through the summer so far,” Watson said.
Allrounder Christian captured a hat-trick as Australia dismissed Sri Lanka for 238 off the last ball in their innings after Jayawardene had won the toss.
Christian became only the fourth Australian to claim an ODI hat-trick in his career-best five for 31 off nine overs.
Sri Lanka lost momentum when Christian struck in the 44th over, removing Thisara Perera (5), Sachithra Senanayake (0) and Kulasekara (0) with consecutive deliveries.
Perera fell to a spectacular juggling catch by Mike Hussey on the boundary rope at deep mid-wicket, while Senanayake and Kulasekara were lbw for ducks, although replays suggested the Kulasekara dismissal was dubious with the ball missing leg-stump.
Christian also captured the wickets of Angelo Mathews (5) and last man Malinga (2) to slow the Sri Lanka run-rate after they were 186 for four in the 39th over and heading for a score of 250-plus.
James Pattinson, playing his first match for Australia since a stress injury in his left foot which had sidelined him since early January, was also among the wickets with four for 51 off 10 overs.
Australia began well dismissing both openers Jayawardene (5) and Dilshan (9) for just 17 runs before Kumar Sangakkara and youngster Dinesh Chandimal restored the innings with a stand of 123 for the third wicket.
The experienced Sangakkara, playing in his 319th ODI, looked set for a big score before he miscued Pattinson to deep square leg where he was caught by Peter Forrest for 64 off 93 balls.
Chandimal topscored with 75 off 84 balls and was later named man-of-the-match.
Lahiru Thirimanne posted a half-century before he was bowled by Pattinson in the penultimate over for 51 off 59 balls.