The Oval: Sri Lanka won by 46 runs
Same city, same result, different venue. This time Sri Lanka's winning margin at The Oval yesterday was 46 compared with 20 at Lords three days ago but the tourists' superiority in all departments was even more overwhelming.
Only while Kevin Pietersen was smashing his way to 73 did England have a sniff of trying to chase down a massive target of 320 but with 100 needed off the last ten overs, three more comic-cut run-outs in the last half-hour only emphasises the vice-like grip Sri Lanka had throughout the one-sided match.
Even while Pietersen was dominating at one end, the run rate was soaring from its original 6.4 per over to well over seven, and the usual stumbling block was the suffocating effect of Muttiah Muralitharan, aided and abetted by man of the match Sanath Jayasuriya.
His 120 off 136 balls - his 20th ODI 100 - was a masterpiece of destructive batting in which he took apart England's young pace attack. His three wickets settled the issue.
England fielded an unchanged side but have nowhere to go in this series and could even lose it 5-0, simply because only Durham's Steve Harmison and Paul Collingwood, together with Jamie Dalrymple, have the faintest idea of how to avoid buckling under pressure.
Harmison was at his best in three spells, and deserved an outstanding return of 10-2-31-3 out of a total of 319 for eight.
The trio of Liam Plunkett, Tim Bresnan and Sajjid Mahmood went for an unacceptable 168 from 21 overs, which Mahmood narrowly avoided the unwanted record of England's most expensive ever bowling return of 83 runs off ten overs by Derek Pringle. Mahmood only avoided it by bowling seven overs for 80.
The pitch was good and the boundaries relatively short with large areas roped off, and after Upul Tharanga got a good one form Harmison, Jayasuiya and Mashela Jayawardene exploited it ruthlessly.
Their second-wicket partnership was worth 160 in 23 overs with Jayasuriya making captain Andrew Strauss pay dearly for a strange tactical decision to use his third power play (five overs in which nine fielders must be in the ring) with two well-set batsmen.
He promptly brought on Mahmood and Bresnan instead of Harmison, and the next five overs went for 59 - after Collingwood and the impressive Dalrymple had slowed the rate. Totally inexplicable.
Jayasuriya tiptoed nervously through the 90s after running out his captain for 66 off 61 balls at 194 for two in the 33rd over. Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 21 in a clatter at the end but it didn't matter much.
Marcus Trescothick slashed one straight to point in the second over, and Strauss completed a poor match with an attempt to hit straight over the top. He is becoming another stand-in captain who shows signs of being dragged down by the rest of his makeshift crew.
As usual, his post-match summary dodged the issue: "When you are chasing 320 you need 100 from someone."
Agreed. But what about a comment about why England needed 320?
Pietersen was at his most belligerent and with Ian Bell hitting a rapid 40 England were still vaguely in the game at 116 for two in the 22nd over.
Even when Bell was caught by Murali off Lasith Malinga, Collingwood kept the ship afloat with a beautifully constructed 50 off 55 balls, only two of which he hit for four. Jayasuriya teased and bowled out Pietersen and Collingwood from over the wicket. That was that.
For the second successive game, Dalrymple showed good technique and character in a gutsy innings of 37 off 34 balls. He is a real find and a worthy stand-in for Ashley Giles and Ian Blackwell.
The crowd melted away faster than England's last five wickets, fed up at the lack of competitiveness from the home side. England have to win the remaining three games but to those readers swilling in profit from the wrongly-priced first two games, don't risk one penny. ..SUPL: