Mahela Jayawardena produced a beautifully crafted 144 from 150 balls, the highest of his 15 ODI centuries and his fifth against England, as Sri Lanka put the memories of their soggy defeat at The Oval to one side with an imposing 69-run victory in the second one-day international at Headingley. Faced with a stiff target of 310, England threatened for a while, particularly while Eoin Morgan was compiling a 37-ball half-century, but eventually succumbed to 240 all out.
With the sun on their backs and little on offer in the pitch, Sri Lanka's morale seemed transformed in the space of three days, and once Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara had overcome the setback of two careless run-outs at the top of the innings, there was little that England could do to contain them. The pair added in 159 for the third wicket in 29.1 overs - a record for Sri Lanka against England, beating the mark of 140 that the same two men set at Durham during the 5-0 whitewash in 2006.
Though Sangakkara was eventually dragged out of his crease by Graeme Swann and stumped for 69, that wicket was the only one that any of England's bowlers managed in the first 45 overs of the innings. Jayawardena eventually followed in the same fashion seven overs later, but at 271 for 4 with 29 balls of the innings remaining, the stage was set for Angelo Mathews, who biffed 41 from 27, before Nuwan Kulasekera and Jeevan Mendis carried the score past 300 in the final over of the innings.
In reply, England's openers did begin with some confidence. With criticism of his role still being voiced in the media, Alastair Cook knew he needed to make his presence felt, especially after opting to chase on a good batting wicket. He and Craig Kieswetter pushed along to 52 without loss in the 10-over Powerplay, with Cook demonstrating his improvisatory side with a scoop for four over the wicketkeeper's head off Kulasekara.
However, the weight of Sri Lanka's runs told on England's batsmen in the end. Kieswetter pulled a Lakmal bouncer to deep square leg for 25, before Kevin Pietersen was superbly caught on the long-on boundary by a diving Lasith Malinga. Cook's own stay ended when he drove Suraj Randiv down the throat of wide long-on for a 52-ball 48, while Jonathan Trott - who had once again been batting to his own tempo - had no answer to a superb inswinging yorker from Lakmal that crashed into his middle stump, and sent him on his way for 39 from 54 balls.
At 144 for 4 in the 28th over, the prospects of victory were bleak, but Morgan injected some genuine life into the innings with another superb display of calculated aggression. He signalled the charge with back-to-back sixes off the leg-spin of Jeevan Mendis, but with 109 still needed from the final 13 overs, Randiv tweaked an off-spinner past his outside edge and Sangakkara, after a struggle to get the ball under control, whipped off the bails. It was all the invitation that Sri Lanka needed to go for the kill, as victory was wrapped up with 25 balls to spare.
Despite a few glimpses from England's batsmen, they lacked a player such as Jaywardena who could combine excellence with endurance. Despite his rough patch of form in the Test series, in which he failed to reach even a half-century in six attempts, this was Jayawardena's second ODI hundred in three innings, following his brilliant but futile performance in the World Cup final in Mumbai. In the absence of the retired Sanath Jayasuriya, he moved up the order to open alongside Dilshan, and responded just as he had done at Bristol in the Twenty20 last week, with a typically attractive and fluent performance.
With exquisite timing and placement through the off-side, and a voracious eye for an opportunity off the pads, Jayawardena racked up 14 fours in his stay, and picked his pace up as the innings progressed. After weathering a testing new-ball spell from James Anderson and Tim Bresnan, he reached his first fifty from 68 balls, his second from 50, and his final 44 came from 32.
At The Oval on Tuesday, both Jayawardena and Sangakkara had been among the early casualties as England reduced Sri Lanka to 15 for 4 in damp seaming conditions. That performance was no doubt a factor for Cook when he turned down the chance to have first use of a flat surface, and when Anderson followed up his Oval performance with seven probing overs for 20, runs did seem hard to come by.
Frustration was certainly a factor in both of England's early breakthroughs. Dilshan was sent on his way for a run-a-ball 9, as Stuart Broad swooped and dived in one motion from mid-on after a crass call for a single, and five overs later, Dinesh Chandimal fell in a carbon-copy fashion, as Anderson this time did the honours from Broad's first ball of the innings.
But the key moment of the innings came in Bresnan's third over, when Jayawardena attempted a glide over the slip cordon on 7, where Graeme Swann couldn't cling on with a fingertipped stretch. Three balls later, Jayawardene edged inches short of Swann again, and then compounded a frustrating over for Bresnan by stroking a drive through the covers for four.
England's fielding, which had been so tigerish in the early stages, began to get a bit ragged as the innings progressed. Cook at short cover dropped a tough diving effort with Jayawardena on 119, while another off-colour day for Broad was compounded when Kulasekara picked out Swann at short third man, who grassed his second clear-cut opportunity.