Kumar Sangakkara has never been part of a Sri Lanka team winning a major ICC one-day trophy outright. Neither have the other outstanding players of this Sri Lanka era - Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga or Tillakaratne Dilshan. But they will believe there is still time after Sangakkara's magnificent unbeaten 134 from 135 balls pulled off an improbable run chase against England by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare at The Oval.
Only India had ever pulled off such a daunting target on this ground and, if Sri Lanka had failed to hit such heights, they would have been eliminated. But, as the clouds cleared, the pitch was encouraging and Sangakkara, driven by the vision that his redoubtable career need not go unrewarded, summoned a shrewd and inspired response.
England now face New Zealand in Cardiff in their final match on Sunday and Sri Lanka are pitted against Australia at The Oval the following day with Group A in the balance.
ODI batting England style, a methodical, statistically-justified policy that involves stripping as much risk out of the game as possible, setting up an appropriate base and then staking much on havoc at the end had been found wanting, and as Sangakkara drove Sri Lanka towards victory, its chief architect, Jonathan Trott, who had made 76 from 87 balls in inimitable style, watched in forlorn mood from the dressing room, ice pack pressed to a strained thigh.
Sangakkara marshalled Sri Lanka's response superbly despite the initially distracting, and ultimately inspired, presence of the promoted tail-ender, Nuwan Kulasekara, who was sent in to No. 5 to have a swing in the Powerplay and who for a prolonged period was about as useful to Sangakkara as a loose horse in the Grand National.
His promotion looked ill-judged as he struggled against James Anderson, but when he launched Graeme Swann's offspin for two successive leg-side sixes, and continued to thrash his way to an unbeaten 58 from 38 balls it abruptly became a masterstroke and long before the end had left England looking demoralised.
Kulasekara also knew his place. Shortly after Sangakkara reached his 15th ODI hundred, and his first against England, he stumbled in mid-pitch and, recognising the danger of a run out, Kulasekara ran alongside him to ensure that he would be run out if anybody would be. In his instantaneous recognition that he must protect his partner at all costs, it spoke volumes for his good sense.
When Sangakkara responded by hoisting Anderson's slower ball for six, it communicated that he was worth preserving. Anderson was impressive, and England's ground fielding, led by the sub Jonny Bairstow, was exceptional at times, but three overs from Joe Root, England's insurance bowler, cost 27, and Stuart Broad had an expensive night. Jayawardene and Dilshan also played their part for Sri Lanka with a couple of 40s and Malinga was Sri Lanka's biggest threat with the ball: the star players had found a response.
Sri Lanka must have feared the game was up when Ravi Bopara struck 28 from the last over, from Shaminda Eranga, including three sixes and two fours, leaving Angelo Mathews mentally rewriting his close-of-innings speech in the Sri Lanka huddle as Bopara left the ground to rousing cheers.
Three England wickets had fallen in six balls at the death, including Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, the latter second ball for 0 - the batsmen they look to for the final flourish both silenced. But Bopara tore into Eranga, depositing him for sixes over long-on, extra cover and long-on again. He even took two runs off the only ball that Eranga managed to get into the blockhole.
That was the excitement; the rest belonged to Trott. His uncanny ability to turn a one-day international innings into an algorithm might not thrill cricket crowds around the world, but when he bats through, it requires something special in return for England to lose.
He worked the leg side with alacrity and, by the time he fell lbw, sweeping at Rangana Herath's left-arm spin, his time had been served. His one-day record is proven, his method brings victory more often than not, and many of those who rail against his methodical ways are railing, in part, about the fact that he is limiting the spectacle.
Alongside Trott, Root provided the perkiest of half-centuries, built on an appreciation of quick ones and twos and occasional inventiveness. If Root was shaken by his altercation with David Warner in the Walkabout bar in Birmingham on Sunday, he did not show it for a moment. Root fell to a slower offcutter from Malinga and left with a wink. Perhaps he winked at Warner, in his green and gold wig, and rued the consequences?
Sri Lanka dropped four catches in all, the most embarrassing of the lot from their eventual saviour, Sangakkara, who dashed from behind the stumps to claim Root's skier to midwicket, and shouted loudly enough, but then feared Mathews was about to collide with him and fumbled the ball in the process.
Dilshan also had the sort of afternoon that befalls this celebrated fielder so rarely. He dropped three catches in all, reprieving Alastair Cook twice, the first a tough diving chance to his right at backward point and the second an easier return catch when again he dived to his right but the ball eluded him. His third mishap, against Root, was a swirler as he dashed back from backward point. At the end of the night, all that was forgotten. A lively tournament had been brought alive.