Wicketkeeper Alex Carey’s unbeaten 45 and an inspired bowling performance helped Australia to a four-wicket consolation win over Sri Lanka in the fifth and final one-day international on Friday.
Australia bowled out the hosts for 160, a potentially tricky total on a bowling-friendly Colombo pitch which the tourists overhauled with 10.3 overs to spare.
Fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and spinner Matthew Kuhnemann took two wickets each.
Chamika Karunaratne hit a valiant 75 for Sri Lanka, who won the five-match series 3-2 after they had taken an unassailable lead following the fourth match.
Australia were in trouble at 50-4 before the left-handed Carey and Marnus Labuschagne, who made 31, put on a key stand of 51.
“We understand where our shortcomings come. No secret that we tend to struggle a little bit more in these conditions when they (pitches) are turning big,” said Finch who is not part of the Test team that will next take on the hosts in a two-match series starting next week.
“I think the confidence in the group to get over the line in a tight run chase, albeit only 160-odd, was still really important. Alex Carey played a real crucial knock with Cameron (Green) driving us home.”
Teenage left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage took three wickets including David Warner, for 10, and Glenn Maxwell, for 16, but the left-handed Carey kept his calm.
‘Thank you Australia’
Earlier Sri Lanka slipped to 85-8 before Karunaratne, who improved on his previous ODI best of 44 not out, and debutant Pramod Madushan put on a stubborn stand of 58 for the ninth wicket.
The tourists had quickly rattled the Sri Lankans after Hazlewood removed the openers inside five overs and finished with figures of 2-22.
Charith Asalanka was run out for 14 after a misunderstanding with his partner Kusal Mendis, who made 26 but was out hit wicket off Glenn Maxwell on the next ball.
Kuhnemann, a left-arm spinner, then struck twice in one over, including dismissing skipper Dasun Shanaka for one.
But Karunaratne fought back as he reached his maiden ODI fifty with a boundary off Cummins and celebrated with a fist pump.
Cummins finally removed Karunaratne, who hit eight fours and two sixes in his stay, to wrap up the innings.
Chasing 161 for victory, Australia lost skipper Aaron Finch, for nought, off mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana and the in-form Warner.
Medium-pace bowler Madushan took his first international wicket after he sent back Mitchell Marsh for 24.
Wellalage, 19, trapped Labuschagne lbw to break the fifth-wicket stand and then bowled Maxwell to raise hopes of another Sri Lankan fightback.
But Carey stood firm alongside Cameron Green, who made an unbeaten 25, as the pair put together 43 runs to steer the team home.
“It (today’s loss) is disappointing, but we need to keep pushing the boundaries. Glad with the way the guys performed in the series,” said Shanaka, whose side lost the T20 international series 2-1.
“We took the momentum from the last T20 game, that set the tone.”
Many Sri Lankan supporters wore Australia’s yellow and held banners thanking the tourists for visiting the island nation, which is battling an unprecedented economic crisis.
Finch in turn thanked the fans for being “amazing”.
The hosts bounced back from their opening loss to win three in a row to clinch their first ODI series victory against Australia in more than a decade.
The two teams now head to Galle for the Tests starting June 29.