Eoin Morgan paved the way for a comfortable England victory over Sri Lanka with a captain’s innings of 92 in the second one-day international.
Morgan suggested earlier this week he would be prepared to drop himself before next year’s World Cup if he no longer justified a place in the team but on this form that is as likely as a dry day in Dambulla.
The series opener was washed out by thunderstorms and although the heavy rain again forced a premature end to proceedings at the Ranjiri Stadium, the tourists did enough to come away with a 31-run win on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method.
Olly Stone will also remember the day fondly after his debut fell foul of the weather, raising pulses with a rapid spell of fast bowling and taking his first international scalp with a bouncer that left Niroshan Dickwella flailing.
England’s 278 for nine, built around Morgan’s measured effort and Joe Root’s industrious 71, proved plenty despite a nostalgia-inducing spell from Lasith Malinga.
The 35-year-old rolled back the years to claim five for 44 but England seamer Chris Woakes proved equally adept with three quick wickets that left the reply in tatters.
After being asked to bat first England suffered their first setback before a run had been scored, Jason Roy turning Malinga’s fourth ball obligingly to mid-wicket.
The Yorkshire pair Jonny Bairstow and Root ensured no more early dramas with stand of 72. Root was at his most fluent with the field up and balls new, with five of his first 15 deliveries clipped to the boundary including three in a row from Malinga.
He would have to wait 54 balls to find the ropes again but never allowed his scoring rate to drag with a combination of canny placement and hard running.
Bairstow, by contrast, never quite found his feet. The opener became only the sixth Englishman to score 1,000 ODI runs in a calendar year but when he lost his off-stump to Thisara Perera it was no great surprise.
Root benefited from Morgan’s arrival, the Irishman troubled at first by spin but always ready with a punchy riposte.
The only two sixes of the innings belonged to him, a clean strike off Thisara and a brutal blow back over Dhananjaya de Silva.
Root, already dropped on 48, had begun to tire when he chipped De Silva to cover via a leading edge – 309 runs and four games since his last dismissal.
Morgan responded by putting the pressure back on Sri Lanka with a series of aggressive strokes. An 11th century was calling when Malinga intervened, drawing a mis-hit off the toe end and gathering the return catch.
Malinga’s trademark yorkers went on to account for Moeen Ali, Woakes and Liam Dawson as Sri Lanka battled back to the tune of five for 69 in the last 10 overs.
Any possibility of capitalising evaporated almost instantly as their experienced top order were blown away.
Woakes found a nagging groove outside off stump and soon started finding edges, Upul Tharanga and Dasun Shanaka nicking behind and captain Dinesh Chandimal playing on.
Niroshan Dickwella briefly recalled predecessor Tillakaratne Dilshan with a brave lap-sweep off Woakes but Stone took care of him.
Hopes are high that the Warwickshire man become England’s 90mph battering ram and his wicket fanned those flames, dug in short, rising viciously and crashing into the batsman’s glove.
The contest was effectively lost at 31 for four and although Thisara (44no) led a middle-order revival, their 29-over score of 140 for five was nowhere near enough when the rain came.