Alastair Cook called Jos Buttler's record hundred "one of the best innings I've seen" as he just failed to carry England to victory at Lord's but then virtually ruled him out of having a chance of making a Test debut back at the same ground in a couple of weeks.
Buttler's 74-ball 121 transformed a floundering England chase in the fourth one-day international and they were still in with a chance of an incredible victory until he was run out in the final over.
With Matt Prior's potential Test recall still under a fitness cloud - he has been named in the Sussex squad for their Championship match against Nottinghamshire, but it will be his first four-day match since the opening week of the season - it was the sort of timing from Buttler that will increase the clamour for him to be elevated to the Test side.
Cook, however, believes Buttler still needs more time to refine his red-ball game and gave a strong indication England will look elsewhere if Prior is not considered.
"He's certainly found his method in one-day cricket," Cook said. "He knows what he's doing. I think he's yet to find that in four-day cricket.
"I think he'll be honest with himself, he needs more time to do that. But a guy who is as talented as that, there's no reason why he can't.
"I think he will become a very good Test player at some stage for England. Talented people find ways to do that, but I don't think he's quite ready yet for that role."
As a one-day player, Buttler continues to take the game by storm, making his maiden hundred having narrowly missed on the milestone when he fell for 99 against West Indies, in Antigua, during March. England needed approaching 10-an-over when he came to the crease and he kept up that required tempo with a mixture of power, placement and quick running.
"It's a hell of an innings," Cook said. "He doesn't deserve to be on the losing side, playing like that. It's one of the best innings I've seen. I don't know where he gets his power from. It is an incredible talent. Having him coming in, you're never out of the game."
Cook defended the performance of the top order after he and Ian Bell had fallen early to Lasith Malinga, leaving Joe Root and Gary Ballance to rebuild cautiously.
"When you lose wickets at the top of the order, you do have to rebuild and give yourself that chance to take the game deep," he said. "You know you can catch up. It's not the ideal way of playing it - because when you score 120 odd off 70 balls, you should win games of cricket."
Angelo Mathews was relieved to come out with a victory to keep the series alive and while he had Lasith Malinga up his sleeve retained the belief that his team would hold on at the death.
"Jos played an unbelievable innings, that's one of the best I've seen. He played the innings of his life," he said. "He nearly took us apart and the game away from us. But it was a great effort by the whole team
"The spinners bowled pretty well but you save the best for the last and Lasith had those overs in hand and it was pretty pleasing the way he bowled."
Cook also acknowledged that Sri Lanka had held their nerve skilfully in the closing overs after England had gone into the final two needing 20 to steal the win.
"You have to give Kulasekara and Malinga credit for those last two overs," he said. "They were brilliant, kept it very simple, and hit the hole nine out of 10 out of the last 12. Under that pressure - Kulasekara especially, after getting pumped three or four overs earlier - to come back like that, you have to give credit."