Mature Swann making right impression
But while it was England's quick bowlers who put them on course for a win on Thursday, spin also played a role with Graeme Swann taking 2 for 27 to follow his important contribution of 34. And Swann's impressive form means Monty Panesar, who began the tour as England's No. 1 spinner in ODIs, is going to face more time on the sidelines unless the series throws up a pitch expected to be a raging turner.
Captain Paul Collingwood has been full of praise for Swann, who is back in the international arena more than seven years after making his debut against South Africa in January 2000. But success for Swann means a frustrating time for Panesar, who hasn't been able to force is way into the starting XI despite playing six of the seven matches against India when England won the series 4-3.
"We all know what Monty can do but Graeme Swann is performing well and that's what we've asked him to do and that's what he's been selected for - his contribution in all three dimensions of cricket is crucial to the team," said Collingwood. "He's been very good. He changes his pace very well and just his overall contribution has been pretty special.
"To come in at number eight and perform with the bat as well is a big contribution, especially on wickets like this. His fielding is pretty good and to bowl his 10 overs for not many runs and take crucial wickets is a really good all-round performance."
It is Swann's three-dimensional role in the side which is proving attractive to Collingwood and Peter Moores. Without the services of Andrew Flintoff, it is allowing them to play three frontline fast bowlers - James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad - while also adding extra depth to the batting. His offspin has also provided a wicket-taking option for Collingwood and he produced a perfect delivery to remove Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was bowled through the gate trying to drive.
Sri Lanka are considering strengthening their spin attack with the inclusion of legspinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi after England milked the part-time offerings of Dilshan and Sanath Jaysuriya in the second match to begin their recovery. In an attempt to adjust to conditions under lights, should they be asked to chase again, Sri Lanka switched their practice session to the evening and coach Trevor Bayliss said he was surprised that all five matches were day/night fixtures.
"We've still got to be confident playing at home, but the one thing I've found a little bit strange coming from Australia to here was that we're actually playing five matches at night," said Bayliss. "I can see the point of having one or two at night, but I thought that if there is a home-ground advantage, we've probably lost that by playing at night."
He said life would have been tougher for England if some day games had been included in the series. "If we'd have played in the middle of the day when it's a bit warmer for the English guys, it might have been a bit more interesting. But that's the sort of thing you have to put up with and that's the decision that's been made and we've got to work out a way to play in the conditions that we're given."
Sri Lanka (probable) Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Jehan Mubarak, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando
England (probable) Alastair Cook, Phil Mustard (wk), Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood (capt), Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson