Sri Lanka proved too good for England when the two sides met in a one-off Twenty20 International at The Oval, winning by nine runs.
The scorecard was close but the match was not, with England behind the game the whole time.
The world champions batted first after losing the toss and posted an impressive 183-5 in their 20 overs.
England fell behind early in the chase, losing wickets and momentum, but Alex Hales gave them hope with a powerful 66.
Lasith Malinga extinguished that hope with a sensational spell of bowling, outfoxing England with control of line, length and pace.
0 - England have failed to win any of their last 4 bilateral T20I series (L3 D1) after being unbeaten in the preceding 8 (W5 D3). Slide.— OptaJim (@OptaJim) May 20, 2014
England won the last meeting between the two sides at the World T20 earlier this year, but that result does not tell the story—it was Sri Lanka's only loss en route to the title and England's only victory.
Under new coach Peter Moores, however, England will have hoped that home advantage against a side shorn of veteran batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene would count in their favour.
It did not.
England were much the same frustrating outfit they have been in limited-overs cricket for some time—unable to stem the tide when the batsmen got after them in the field and missing half-chances to take key catches.
|K Perera||c Bopara||b Jordan||10||16||10|
|Vithanage||c Carberry||b Woakes||38||28||26|
|Thirimanne||c Hales||b Gurney||40||55||32|
|Chandimal||c Hales||b Root||7||2||5|
|Mathews||c Root||b Tredwell||13||15||13|
|T Perera||run out (Gurney)||49||24||20|
|N Kulasekara||not out||9||13||5|
|Extras||0nb 1w 0b 2lb||3|
|Total||for 7||183||(20.0 ovs)|
After debutant Harry Gurney bowled an impressive first two overs, England lost their way as Kithuruwan Vithanage and Lahiru Thirimanne combined in style for the third wicket.
Their 54-run stand wrested control from their hosts, and Thisara Perera made sure they capitalised, top-scoring with a 20-ball 49.
The left-hander was streaky at times but also full of power and intent.
Chasing more than nine an over, a strong start was required.
|Carberry||c N Kulasekara||b Mathews||7||6||7|
|Bell||c K Perera||b Malinga||13||20||17|
|Root||c Chandimal||b Lakmal||5||10||7|
|Morgan||c Lakmal||b T Perera||5||15||11|
|Buttler||c Dilshan||b N Kulasekara||26||17||16|
|Extras||0nb 11w 1b 5lb||17|
|Total||for 7||172||(19.4 ovs)|
Michael Carberry, who had shelled a steepling catch in the field after a miscommunication with Eoin Morgan, fell early, while Ian Bell's 17-ball 13 did little to justify his recall to the side.
With Joe Root and skipper Morgan mustering just five runs each, England were reduced to 85-4 and soon needing more than 12 runs an over.
Jos Buttler and Hales—who had been starved of the strike—kicked into life, and Hales continued even when the wicket-keeper holed out after hitting a full toss with the toe-end of his bat.
With the memories of his century against Sri Lanka at the World T20 still fresh in the mind, it could have caused the champions some jitters.
Among the 17 players with 1000 T20I runs, Kevin Pietersen's (37.93) ave is highest, the 2nd on the list is Alex Hales (37.85). #EngvSL— Cricket Record (@cricinfo_record) May 20, 2014
But Malinga was in total control. He bowled an over of slow deliveries at Hales until one tempted him to go through his shot too early.
Ravi Bopara and the tail were left with far too much to do, and though there was nothing wrong with Bopara's cameo of 28 from 15 balls, he had been asked to do the impossible.