Someday, it is fair to presume, England will again defeat Sri Lanka in a one-day match. On the evidence of the opening contest of the series yesterday, it is advisable that there should not be too much holding of breath. It is far more likely to be later instead of sooner; say next year, or the one after, or the one after that.
The victory, by 119 runs, was a formality for the home side. It was their seventh successive win against England and only against Australia have England suffered a worse sequence. If Sri Lanka had the better of the conditions on a slow surface, they also played the more intelligent cricket: B-plus students were opposing the D-minus set.
"It was an eye-opener for the boys who haven't played in Sri Lanka and about the skills that are needed here," the England captain, Paul Collingwood, said. "It's a proper scrap – they don't give you anything. This is where we have to show our character."
England, bullish coming into the match, got most things wrong. Dropping Monty Panesar for the fifth time this year and recalling Graeme Swann after almost eight years and 175 matches was bold, if surprising. Calling incorrectly at the toss was forgivable but much of what followed was less easy to accept.
The misdemeanours may have started in the build-up. On being informed that Muttiah Muralitharan was injured, England insisted on practising as if the legendary off-spinner was playing. For all anybody will ever know they might have given him a lesson he would not forget in the art of batting against mystery spin.
What they were ill-prepared for, unfortunately, was the array of skilful seam bowling that confronted them. The pitch was slow and becoming slower and lower, but England were hapless in their attempts to chase 270, which would have been comfortably the highest winning second-innings total at the ground.
They failed to rotate the strike, chose shots poorly and never came to terms with the pace of the pitch or the wily variations of pace used by the Sri Lankans, and especially the unsung Farveez Maharoof. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow – maybe it needed Mark Ramprakash in his Strictly Come Dancing mode.
It would have been more excusable had England not seen Sri Lanka pace their innings impeccably, looking for gaps, hunting down singles and keeping wickets in hand until the last 10 overs. Only one batsman made 50 but five went beyond 30, which was priceless.
On winning the toss they weighed their options, assessing what a decent score might be. But they always kept the scoreboard moving, deflecting here, nudging there, pushing, shoving, lapping. Mahela Jayawardene was particularly delightful, a master of the delicate shot.
England might have thought they bowled well, and indeed they did not bowl badly. The most heartening of their seven wickets was the debutant wicketkeeper Philip Mustard's stumping of Kumar Sangakkara off Swann, the batsman beaten by flight and turn. Might this be the first of many such alliances?
The trouble was that only once here had more runs been made in the first innings. England started well, Mustard blasting a few before naïvety undid him, but then decline set in. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Collingwood all failed. By the time Swann and Ravi Bopara compiled a pleasant partnership the game was up.
Sri Lanka (won toss)
W U Tharanga c Collingwood b Broad 40
S T Jayasuriya c Bopara b Sidebottom 41
†K C Sangakkara st Mustard b Swann 38
*D P M Jayawardene c Shah b Collingwood 66
L P C Silva c Cook b Collingwood 33
T M Dilshan not out 11
J Mubarak c Anderson b Broad 1
M F Maharoof c Anderson b Sidebottom 22
W P U Vaas not out 1
Extras (b3 lb5 w8) 16
Total (for 7, 50 overs) 269
Fall: 1-71 2-95 3-166 4-225 5-237 6-240 7-264.
Did not bat: S L Malinga, C R D Fernando.
Bowling: Anderson 8-0-47-0 (3w); Sidebottom 10-0-56-2 (2w); Broad 10-0-54-2 (2w); Collingwood 10-0-44-2 (1w); Swann 10-0-47-1; Shah 2-0-13-0.
A N Cook c Sangakkara b Maharoof 46
†P Mustard c Malinga b Maharoof 27
I R Bell c Sangakkara b Maharoof 0
K P Pietersen c Sangakkara b Maharoof 1
*P D Collingwood c D P M D Jayawardene
b Fern 9
O A Shah c Mubarak b Malinga 7
R S Bopara not out 27
G P Swann c Malinga b Dilshan 24
S C J Broad run out 1
R J Sidebottom st Sangakkara b Dilshan 2
J M Anderson c D P M D Jayawardene
b Jaya 0
Extras (w6) 6
Total (34.5 overs) 150
Fall: 1-43 2-58 3-60 4-73 5-91 6-102 7-144 8-145 9-149.
Bowling: Vaas 5-0-32-0 (1w); Malinga 6-0-32-1 (3w); Fernando 7-0-23-1 (1w); Maharoof 10-2-31-4; Dilshan 4-0-20-2 (1w); Jayasuriya 2.5-0-12-1.
Sri Lanka win by 119 runs
Man of the match: Farveez Maharoof (S Lanka).
Series: Sri Lanka lead 1-0.
Remaining matches: Thursday: Second one-day international (Dambulla). 7 Oct: Third one-day international (Dambulla). 10 Oct: Fourth one-day international (Colombo). 13 Oct: Fifth one-day international (Colombo).