Dambulla : Sri Lanka rode on Tillakaratne Dilshan's century to clinch the tri-series title with an emphatic 74-run win over India here on Saturday night, ending Mahendra Singh Dhoni's sequence of four consecutive series triumphs on Sri Lankan soil.
The hosts first amassed an imposing total of 299 for eight largely built around Dilshan's (110) eighth ODI century and then shot out the visitors for 225 in 46.5 overs in a rather lop-sided floodlit contest.
The Indians paid the price for a sloppy bowling display which allowed the hosts to put up a big total on the board on what appeared to be a good batting track at the Rangiri Dambulla International stadium.
It turned out to be Dhoni's first ODI series defeat on Sri Lankan soil, as the hosts had lost to India in four finals in the past two years at home, with the most recent being the Asia Cup in June.
The hosts lost a five-match bilateral series 3-2 in 2008 and another 4-1 in early 2009. Later that year India beat Sri Lanka in a tri-series final also involving New Zealand.
While Dilshan, who notched up his maiden century on Sri Lankan soil, played a pivotal role in his team's victory, captain Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Mahela Jayawardene (39) chipped in with useful contributions.
Chasing a stiff target of 300 for win, only Dhoni could provide some resistance with a gritty 67 while a few other batsmen like Virender Sehwag (28), Virat Kohli (37) and Suresh Raina (29) got the starts but could not make it count.
The Indian innings began on a disastrous note with Dinesh Karthik, who has been having a wretched time with the bat, being dismissed for a duck off Lasith Malinga.
Unfazed by the early loss of his opening partner, Virender Sehwag luanched into the offensive with a flurry of boundaries picking up Nuwan Kulasekera and Angelo Mathews for special treatment.
But Sehwag's belligerence was shortlived as he was run out trying to steal non-existent leg bye, much to the disappointment of his teammates.
Sehwag survived a confident shout for leg before after he was hit on the pads by a Kulasekara inswinger but the appeal was turned down by the umpire. He then tried to steal a leg bye and turned back but it was too late by then to beat a direct hit.
The Indians then suffered another jolt when Yuvraj Singh also returned to the pavilion, falling prey to Thisara Perera with a ball which kicked up from short of length.
Virat Kohli, who was shaping up well, was accounted by Perera a few minutes later to reduce the visitors 109 for four in the 22nd over.
Captain Dhoni and Suresh Raina then tried to steady the ship by not taking too many risks as the asking rate climbed up to more than seven runs per over.
The duo added 49 runs for the fifth wicket before Raina (29), in a bid to accelerate the pace of scoring, went for a mighty heave but mistimed the shot and Dilshan took a well-judged catch at the cover region.
Earlier, electing to bat, it was not a fiery start for the hosts as both the Lankan openers took some time to settle down and opened up gradually to pile up the misery on the visitors.
There was a minor altercation between Dilshan and Munaf Patel, who collided with the batsman in the seventh over, but normalcy was restored after umpire Asad Rauf and Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni intervened and pacified the two players.
Dilshan was more agressive of the two openers, who raised the best opening partnership of the series so far by putting on 121 for the first wicket.
Ishant Sharma provided the breakthrough for the visitors by evicting the experienced Mahela Jayawardene (39) with Dinesh Karthik latchinng on to a well-judged catch.
Jayawardene reached forward and tried to wrist a length delivery across the line but only succeeded in spooning a catch to Karthik at the sweeper cover.
But his dimssal came only after he had achieved a personal milestone of completing 9000 runs in ODIs, becoming only the third Sri Lankan to achieve the feat after Sanath Jayasuriya (13,428 runs) and Aravinda de Silva (9824 runs).
Part-timer Yuvraj Singh then struck for his team by dismissing Upul Tharanga (6) who edged the ball to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stump.
After the two quick wickets, Dilshan and captain Kumar Sangakkara re-build the innings by playing cautiously. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking by gentle nudges and pushes before unleashing some exquisite shots on both sides of the wicket.
The two batsmen piled up the runs with ease and with the Indian pacers struggling to check the run flow, the Indians badly missed the services of a specialist fifth bowler.
Dilshan, who slowed down in the 90's, took two runs off Ishant to notch up his eighth ODI century and his first on Sri Lankan soil. It was his third ton against India.
Dilshan, however, could not survive for long after completing his century with Ishant Sharma taking a good catch on the boundary line off Praveen Kumar.
Munaf Patel then removed Sangakkara with Rohit Sharma taking the catch while Nehra accounted for Chamara Kapugedera (12) to slow down the scoring rate just a bit.
But a series of no-ball, wides and some lusty hitting by the late order batsmen in the slog overs ensured that Sri Lanka had a healthy total. PTI