Ben Stokes' resistance was ended by Akila Dananjaya. Getty Images
In a mammoth 367-run chase, in less than two overs, England had lost three out of their top four. Having gone a batsman light to experiment with their pace attack, by the eighth over, the visitors found themselves with all their frontline batsmen and 'keeper back in the pavilion.For all of England's batting might in the lower order, the chase was dead there and then.
Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali struggled in intense humidity and staged a brief fightback with a 79-run stand, England's highest for fifth wicket in Sri Lanka. Without taking much risks, they were scoring at almost run-a-ball. However, Akila Dananjaya's mid-innings burst cut short England's fightback. The mystery spinner dismissed both the set batsman and laid the stage for a lower order collapse.
Adil Rashid and Tom Curran failed to read his variations and were dismissed cheaply to have England further reduced to 132 for 9, before rain stopped play. Sri Lanka won by a 218-run margin (DLS Method); the second highest in an interrupted contest.
Earlier in the chase, Kasun Rajitha and Dushmantha Chameera - auditioning for the second new ball bowler's role in the side - had paralysed England's challenge by dismissing both the openers and Jos Buttler within 10 balls of their innings. While Jason Roy was castled by a yorker that moved away late, Alex Hales disappointed by poking outside and offering a catch to the slips. Buttler too fell to the moving ball, edging Chameera's delivery to the 'keeper.
Joe Root looked to consolidate the early damage in the company of Stokes but ended up playing a drive on the up to the cover fielder, reducing the visitors to 28 for 4. With Eoin Morgan rested for the inconsequential encounter, that dismissal, in a way, had damaged England's hopes of making it 4-0.
Much in contrast, Sri Lanka's top order laid the foundation of the win with a strong platform for the big total after winning the toss. The top four batsmen - Niroshan Dickwella, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis - stroked fifties (only the 15th such instance in ODIs).
The attack began against Sam Curran, who was hit for four boundaries in his second over. Dickwella and Samarawickrama combined power and grace to launch a calculated assault and give Sri Lanka a much-needed good start. The duo brought up the fifty partnership in only 39 balls, and 100 in 85. They were looking in little trouble before an innocuous off break by Moeen clipped the stumps enroute the 'keeper. Samarawickrama, who stroked his maiden fifty, was lazy to play the shot and missed it. However, none of the English players seemed too convinced with it, not even the 'keeper. It was only a replay that made things clear and the third umpire declared the batsman out.
Dickwella, who had resorted to a few risky scoops and reverse sweeps, apart from the usual cuts and drives, had become more audacious with his stroke-making as his innings progressed. However, in the 26th over, he edged a cut straight to Root at short third man to end his stay on 95.
Skipper Chandimal, who was slow to begin with, and out-of-form Mendis, ensured the good work by the openers didn't go wasted. They continued to make life more miserable for the bowlers and the fielders who were having an ordinary day. Much like Dickwella, Mendis too frequently brought out reverse sweeps to counter the spin duo of Rashid and Moeen. He also hammered six 6s in his 33-ball 56 and put on a 102-run stand for the third wicket.
Sri Lanka, who had managed 285 for 3 in the first 40 overs, looked well set for a late onslaught and a 400-plus total. However a flurry of wickets, including two off two by Tom Curran, meant that they finished with 366 for 6. Chandimal, who was dropped on 6 by Tom Curran, went on to score a 73-ball 80.
Sri Lanka put up an all-round display of dominance, one far removed from the kind of games they played earlier in the series. Even though it all came in an inconsequential contest, they will take heart from it. For the kind of miserable two years they have had in ODIs, and only a limited number of games left before the world cup, this performance was a much-needed morale booster.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 366/6 in 50 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 95, Dinesh Chandimal 80, Kusal Mendis 56; Moeen Ali 2-57) beat England 132/9 in 26. 1 overs (Ben Stokes 67, Moeen Ali 37; Dushmantha Chameera 3-20) by 219 runs (DLS method).