Chandimal snuck up on Pakistan almost unnoticed. Having arrived in the 25th over, he only reached his fifty in the 47th, with what was, until then, his first boundary. At that stage Sri Lanka was out of the match, eight down and with 28 runs still to get.
But in the next over, Ajantha Mendis was dropped by Sohaib Maqsood at cover and it was a vital drop. He reverse swept the last ball of the over, off Saeed Ajmal, for a boundary and a faltering chase suddenly had new life.
The penultimate over was the one that titled the match decisively. Umar Gul had been rushed into the squad midway through the series because Pakistan was struggling with its bowling at the death. It was ironic then, that with 18 still needed off 12 balls, he was first lofted for six over midwicket by Chandimal and then, audaciously by Mendis, over extra cover.
Mendis sealed the win in a nervy last over with a slap over the extra cover boundary, finishing unbeaten on 19 in an unlikely 40-run stand.
The plaudits will be Chandimal’s though. When he arrived after Tillakaratne Dilshan had perished for a sedate 45, Sri Lanka was still on course for a comfortable win. That had been powered by an audacious start from Kusal Perera, greeted at one stage on the electronic scoreboard as the new Sanath Jayasuriya.
But Sri Lanka lost its way around Chandimal. Junaid Khan had taken Dilshan’s wicket and when he bowled Kumar Sangakkara round his legs, it sparked a collapse which all but finished the game. Wickets fell regularly while Chandimal assiduously worked his singles. It was only when Mendis arrived that their true worth became apparent.
It was ultimately a deserved result and gave the series scoreline the closeness it warranted. Sri Lanka has been second best but mostly because it lost its way at critical moments throughout. It was good in the field on Friday as well, managing finally to restrict Pakistan to a modest total.
Partly this was Pakistan’s own doing, a visible sense of complacency sneaking into its batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq were the major contributors though, like the others, they ultimately failed to build on their starts.
Sri Lanka bowled smartly and fielded sharply, exemplified by Dilshan’s outstanding catch to dismiss Maqsood. Lasith Malinga was expensive as he generally is against Pakistan, but four wickets was some compensation. Only an impressive 41 from Anwar Ali at the end dragged Pakistan to a total they could think of defending, but in the end, even that was not to be enough.