Jonathan Trott struck a match-high 72 off 87 balls to lead England to 268-9.
Manchester: Jade Dernbach finished off Sri Lanka with wickets in successive balls as England held its nerve to win a dramatic one-day international decider by 16 runs at Old Trafford on Saturday, clinching a 3-2 series win.
Jonathan Trott struck a match-high 72 off 87 balls to lead England to 268-9 but the target looked within reach for the Sri Lankans, especially when a sixth-wicket stand of 102 between Angelo Mathews (62) and Jeevan Mendis (48) led a recovery after early setbacks.
However, England rallied to take five wickets in the final 13 balls, Dernbach claiming the scalps of Mathews and Lasith Malinga as Sri Lanka came up short on 252 all out, with 10 balls remaining.
"To play like that under pressure in the decider of a series was pleasing. The way we bowled under pressure at the end was fantastic," England captain Alastair Cook said. "Jade finished it off nicely."
Those late wickets improved an otherwise substandard bowling effort from Dernbach, with England instead having fellow paceman Tim Bresnan (3-49) to thank for removing the top three in Sri Lanka's batting order.
Offspinner Suraj Randiv had earlier taken 5-42 to stifle England but those exploits couldn't prevent the tourists following up its 1-0 defeat to England in the three-match test series with another reverse in the limited-overs format.
The hosts also gained some revenge for the 10-wicket hammering inflicted by the Sri Lankans in the World Cup quarterfinal in Colombo in March.
"We are a long way off, but the things we talked about at the beginning of the series as a team are going to take time to work out and improve. But this is a step in the right direction," Cook said.
Bresnan gave England the perfect start in Sri Lanka's run chase by dismissing debutant opener Dimuth Karunaratne (4) and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan (4) cheaply but after the dangerous Mahela Jayawardene also went for nine, Kumar Sangakkara (48) and Dinesh Chandimal (54) cut loose in a 94-run, fourth-wicket stand.
Even when they fell in the space of 3.3 overs midway through the innings, Mathews and Mendis looked like seeing Sri Lanka home before the late implosion.
England had earlier wasted a promising start given to them by openers Craig Kieswetter (43) and Cook (31), who enjoyed a first-wicket partnership of 85 as they picked up where they left off in the fourth ODI at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
On that occasion, the pair put on an unbroken 171 in a 10-wicket win to keep the series alive but they didn't last as long three days on.
The wheels fell off the innings when Cook was stumped by wicketkeeper Sangakkara, off Randiv, and the captain was quickly followed back to the pavilion by Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen (5).
Trott and Eoin Morgan (57 off 60 balls) steadied the innings with a crucial 118-run partnership for the fourth wicket, only for the latter to become the second player to be stumped, sparking a second, heavier collapse.
Randiv claimed the next four wickets — Ian Bell (4), Trott, Samit Patel (8) and Bresnan (6) — in the space of 5.5 overs and for the addition of only 21 runs. It left the Sri Lankans in the driving seat ahead of the reply but they couldn't seize their chance.
England: Alastair Cook (c), Craig Kieswetter (wk), Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Ian Bell, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Jade Dernbach, James Anderson
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene, Dimuth Karunaratne, Tillakaratne Dilshan (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekera, Dhammika Prasad, Suraj Randiv, Lasith Malinga