Kumar Sangakkara struck 112 – and England captain Alastair Cook failed again – as Sri Lanka took an unassailable 4-2 lead with a 90-run victory in the sixth one-day international, in Kandy.
Sangakkara, dropped by Cook on 41, scored his 20th ODI century as the home side’s 292-7 proved too much for England who were bowled out for 202 in 41.3 overs despite Joe Root’s 55 to suffer their sixth successive series defeat.
Cook’s torrid run with the bat – he now averages just 17.40 in this series - continued when he fell for a single to spinner Sachithra Senanayake, who also bowled the advancing James Taylor for 10.
From that point England struggled to recover, Root’s stands of 39 and 46 with Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes respectively offering a glimmer of hope that was snuffed out by Suranga Lakmal, who took 4-30 on his return to the side.
England began well enough, striking quickly after losing the toss when Woakes (2-51) – who took 6-47 in the tourists’ five-wicket fifth ODI victory – removed newly-promoted Mahela Jayawardene.
But Sangakkara in partnership with Tillakaratne Dilshan (68) accumulated patiently and posted their hundred stand off 141 balls after a huge slice of luck.
Ravi Bopara, used sparingly in the series, induced a rare false short from Sangakkara in his first over only for Cook to shell the simple chance at mid-off.
Sangakkara, who is due to retire after the World Cup, cashed in hitting 11 fours and a six en route to his hundred – his first on his hometown ground – after Dilshan had holed out off James Tredwell (1-37).
As he left the field after hitting a Chris Jordan delivery to Moeen Ali in the covers, Sangakkara departed to huge cheers – acknowledging the applause with both arms aloft – in an emotional farewell to his Kandy supporters.
Seekkuge Prasanna smashed 20 in 12 balls as the runs continued to flow and a total of 92 came off the final 10 overs as England persisted with short-ball tactics.
Steven Finn (2-51) picked up a couple of wickets, those of Prasanna slogging to cover and Angelo Mathews who walked after tickling a catch down the leg-side.
There was little respite for the tourists, though, Dinesh Chandimal – ably supported by Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis – cracking 35 off 31 balls before being bowled by the final ball of the innings from Jordan.
Cook and Taylor fell cheaply at the start of England’s chase before Moeen, who struck Dilshan for two sixes and a four in one over, was next to go for 34 off 32 balls when the spinner got one to turn and bounce – Sangakkara taking the catch.
The game was as good as up when Suranga Lakmal removed Bopara (13) and Eoin Morgan in successive balls to make the score 84-5.
Root – man-of-the-match for his unbeaten century in England’s fifth ODI victory – tried hard to turn the tide in conjunction with Buttler, only for the wicketkeeper-batsman to be run out by Thirimanne’s stunning reverse-handed direct hit.
The Yorkshire batsman pushed on, reaching his fifty off 69 balls, until he was bowled by Lakmal attempting to scoop the ball over the wicketkeeper.
All-rounder Woakes (41 off 49) did succeed in posting his highest one-day score – showing some decent form with the bat before pushing a simple return catch to Dilshan - but by then the game, and the series, was long gone.
Watch the seventh and final one-day international between Sri Lanka and England live on Sky Sports 2 this Tuesday from 8.30am.