In decades to come it may be concluded that this was the one-day series which started it all. That when England won the World Cup in 2015, the defeat of Sri Lanka in 2011 ensured that the dream took shape.
There is a long, long way to go, perhaps more than can be fitted into four years, and there is India, the world champions, as the next series engagement both in September, at home, and in October, away. More will be known after those 10 matches about where this side might realistically expect to go.
As a work in progress, England have been fitful. But by winning the fifth, final and decisive match of the opening one-day series of the summer, Alastair Cook's first as captain, they demonstrated that there is at least something to work on.
The match was the most enthralling of the five, ending when Sri Lanka were finally dismissed with 10 balls left, 16 runs short of their target. They might have been put away some time before, or indeed had the tourists held their nerve a little more they might have sneaked home.
After a dreadful start Sri Lanka recovered only to lose their last five wickets in 14 balls when the finishing line was both in sight and yet receding.
England and Cook, however, deserved this, not least because together they had so much to prove when they started this series. Had they lost this match it might not have had too dramatic an effect on their overall development. Having won the series after being 2-1 down, and when it became so close at the end, may help them to believe that they can go places. Perhaps.
England had magnificent starts to both yesterday's innings. They raced to 85 in the 13th over before they lost a wicket and in turn reduced their opponents to 29 for three. Even so they prevailed by only a narrow margin, Sri Lanka at the last losing their nerve while England managed to keep their composure.
On a slow pitch, far removed from the Old Trafford tracks of old (perhaps because the squarehas indeedbeen moved, turned 180 degrees to avoid the setting sun's rays), Sri Lanka left themselves needing 73 from the final 10 overs. While Angelo Mathews was there anything was possible, though, and while England knew that more than a run a ball was a tough ask they also recognised what he could do.
Mathews and Jeevan Mendis never quite got up with the required rate but their 102 in 99 balls for the sixth wicket was exciting stuff. They found the gaps and they found them regularly, and occasionally they found the boundaries. But England just managed to keep them in check.
The match finally began to turn as late as the 47th over when Mendis rode his luck once too often and holed out to deep midwicket against Samit Patel. That one moment alone all but justified the huge gamble England took by leaving out Stuart Broad and introducing Patel as second spinner for his first one-day match in almost three years.
There was soon to be a rattle of wickets – Nuwan Kulasekaradriving to wide midwicket, Suraj Randiv run out after being sent back – but when Lasith Malinga calmly struck Jimmy Anderson for six from his first ball the match remained in the balance.
But then England found just the man they needed. Mathews is excellent in this sort of position but his attempted leg-side flick off another slower ball from Jade Dernbach flew high to point. Next ball the overjoyed Dernbach bowled Malingaand England had their victory.
England's innings was played in four acts, which is usually one too many. They were off to a corking start thanks to Cook, the Essex Flier himself, and Craig Kieswetter. They were then both dismissed within four balls and were soon followed by Kevin Pietersen, about whom questions will shortly be asked again.
The rebuilding work was done with diligence and calm by Jonathan Trott, who was born for this kind of work, and Eoin Morgan, for whom it is also second nature. They never let the scoreboard stop ticking and it was probably good for Trott that Morgan was keeping him company. Their fourth-wicket partnership was worth 118 in 126 balls when Morgan perished, walking down the track to find himself stumped.
Spin was – yet again – to undermine England and the innings tottered thereafter. Ian Bell had just time to show why he is not a one-day No 6 and Trott was not the same with Morgan gone. Sri Lanka sensed that they had England on the run, and although the tourists could not bowl them out only 40 runs came from the last 10 overs, which can be one-day suicide.
That Cook-inspired start meant that they had a working total, however, and the match was always just out of Sri Lanka's reach after Tim Bresnan and Anderson got to work. Just. World Cup 2115? Here come Cook's England.
Old Trafford scoreboard
England won toss
†C Kieswetter b Prasad 43/59/5/1
*A N Cook st Sangakkara b Randiv 31/55/3/0
I J L Trott b Randiv 72/118/3/0
K P Pietersen c Sangakkara b Prasad 5/11/0/0
E J G Morgan st Sangakkara b Dilshan 57/84/2/0
I R Bell c Kulasekara b Randiv 4/8/0/0
S R Patel c Mathews b Randiv 8/20/0/0
T T Bresnan c Sangakkara b Randiv 6/12/0/0
G P Swann run out 5/16/0/0
J M Anderson not out 12/23/0/0
J W Dernbach not out 3/9/0/0
Extras b1 lb6 w15 22
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 268
Fall 1-85 2-87 3-95 4-213 5-222 6-233 7-243 8-243 9-253.
Bowling Dilshan 9-0-44-1; Kulasekara 8-0-51-0; Malinga 10-0-60-0; Prasad 6-0-26-2; Randiv 10-0-42-5; Mendis 7-0-37-0.
F D M Karunaratne c Trott b Bresnan 4/6/1/0
*T M Dilshan c Dernbach b Bresnan 4/13/0/0
†K C Sangakkara b Bresnan 48/110/3/0
D P M Jayawardene c Cook b Anderson 9/20/0/0
L D Chandimal st Kieswetter b Swann 54/65/5/2
A D Mathews c Bresnan b Dernbach 62/102/6/0
B M A Mendis c Pietersen b S R Patel 48/72/4/0
K M D Kulasekara c Morgan b Anderson 4/8/0/0
S Randiv run out 0/2/0/0
S L Malinga b Dernbach 6/6/0/0
K T G Prasad not out 0/2/0/0
Extras lb9 w4 13
Total (48.2 overs) 252
Fall 1-7 2-12 3-29 4-123 5-131 6-233 7-245 8-246 9-252.
Bowling Anderson 10-0-55-2; Bresnan 9-0-49-3; Dernbach 9.2-0-49-2; S R Patel 10-0-49-1; Swann 10-2-41-1.
Umpires B F Bowden (NZ) and N J Llong (Eng).
England win by 16 runsReuse content