In a wise analysis of Twenty20 the other day, Stuart Broad said that the loss of three wickets in the first six overs usually meant the loss of the match as well. England offered a variation on their captain's theme last night by losing two wickets in the first over.
They did not lose a third until much later, the 10th, but by then the Super Eight match against West Indies was already over the Kandy hills and far away. How valiantly they tried to claw their way back and when the last over was bowled they needed 23 to win.
But it was all too much in the end, the damage done much earlier in the piece and a partnership of 107 in 58 balls between Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan was not quite enough. At least England did not go wondering what might have been but the brutal truth is that a total of 179 for 5 proved well beyond their means and their method.
The idea that they can retain the title they won in such glorious style two years ago is now firmly in the realms of the theoretical. Lose to New Zealand in the second of their Super Eight matches tomorrow and it may no longer be residing even there.
West Indies, who batted with immense gusto, reaching 100 after only 10 overs, cheekily tormented England with spin. Recognising England's fallibility they not only selected the leg-spinner Samuel Badree for his first match of the tournament but also gave him the new ball.
He bowled throughout the powerplay and thoroughly justified the tactic by conceding only 20 runs and bowling 12 dot balls. In all, West Indies bowled 15 overs of spin. But it was podgy seamer Ravi Rampaul who created incisions that made England's task seem hopeless before it started.
Craig Kieswetter, who is having a poor run at present, played a horrible pull shot to the second ball of the innings and was caught at point. To the third, Luke Wright guided one to slip. Rampaul started with a double-wicket maiden.
The retrenchment that followed was necessary but gruelling on the eye. Jonny Bairstow has done some good things for England since making his debut barely a year ago but his defects, both against high pace and cunning spin, have also been exposed.
He was hapless at times last night, using up too many balls in a crucial period, uncertain what the best policy was. When at last he connected with one, a lofted straight drive off Chris Gayle, the ball was plucked nonchalantly out of the air by Kieron Pollard, running round the boundary.
If that was the game done and dusted, England were not of a mind to go quietly. Morgan, who reckons he can score from any position, set about showing why. He hit straight and he hit square but above all he found the gap when it mattered.
His accompanist, Hales, was equally accomplished. Together they rattled their opponents but there was just enough athletic fielding to keep England at bay. At 115 for 3 after 15 overs, the opportunity had all but receded. Hales was stumped giving the charge in the last over for 68 from 51 balls, Morgan was unbeaten on 71 from 36 balls which contained five sixes.
If the result seemed to be too predictable from early in the second innings few but England minded. West Indies batted explosively at the start, led by the world's chief plunderer, Chris Gayle. He was aided and abetted by his opening partner, Johnson Charles, whose strokes were purer and went just as far.
They reached 47 in the six-over powerplay and then began to open up with 37 off two overs of spin from the unfortunate Graeme Swann and Samit Patel. There was nothing the poor pair could do. West Indies do not have England's hesitancy against slow bowling.
The rate was slowed down a little as the innings went on and Gayle was ensnared by Swann for 58 before lasting damage was inflicted. To make 180 on a pitch being used for its fourth innings of the day – the earlier match was played on it as well – England had to be at their best. They were not but they went down with spirit.
PALLEKELE (One Day): West Indies (2pts) beat England by 15 runs
West Indies won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
J Charles c Bairstow b Dernbach 84 3 10 56 76
C H Gayle c Finn b Swann 58 4 6 35 46
M N Samuels c Morgan b Broad 2 0 0 8 10
K A Pollard c Wright b Finn 1 0 0 5 5
D J Bravo not out 11 0 2 8 19
*D J G Sammy b Broad 4 0 0 3 1
A D Russell not out 10 0 2 5 6
Extras (b1 lb7 w1) 9
Total (for 5, 20 overs) 179
Fall: 1-103, 2-118, 3-128, 4-154, 5-158.
Did Not Bat: †D Ramdin, S P Narine, R Rampaul, S Badree.
Bowling: S T Finn 4-0-26-1, J W Dernbach 4-0-38-1, S C J Broad 4-1-26-2, G P Swann 4-0-36-1, S R Patel 3-0-34-0, L J Wright 1-0-11-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
†C Kieswetter c Pollard b Rampaul 0 0 0 2 0
A D Hales st Ramdin b Samuels 68 2 5 51 78
L J Wright c Gayle b Rampaul 0 0 0 1 0
J M Bairstow c Pollard b Gayle 18 0 2 29 30
E J G Morgan not out 71 5 4 36 43
J C Buttler not out 1 0 0 1 0
Extras (b1 lb1 w4) 6
Total (for 4, 20 overs) 164
Fall: 1-0, 2-0, 3-55, 4-162.
Did Not Bat: S R Patel, *S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn, J W
Bowling: R Rampaul 4-1-37-2, S Badree 4-0-20-0, S P Narine 4- 0-33-0, D J G Sammy 1-0-13-0, C H Gayle 4-0-27-1, M N Samuels 3-0-32-1.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and S J Davis.
P W L T N R Pts RR
West Indies 1 1 0 0 0 2 0.75
Sri Lanka 1 1 0 0 0 2 0.00
New Zealand 1 0 1 0 0 0 0.00
England 1 0 1 0 0 0 -0.75