In some ways, the shellacking they received at Chester-le-Street was an improvement for Sri Lanka. No one got injured, no one broke curfew (that we know of), and at 80 for 4 in England's chase, it was possible to discern the first tremors of a full-blown wobble. Had Kusal Perera held onto a fairly straightforward catch when Moeen Ali edged his first ball behind, the result may have been in question; instead, Joe Root put his 150 ODIs of experience to good use in overseeing a 91-run stand that pretty much settled the matter.
Sometimes you've got to take the positives where you find them. A young seam attack with a combined 33 caps bowled with vim to check England's aggressive early advances, Dushmantha Chameera again impressing; Wanindu Hasaranga gave further notice of his qualities, batting above No. 7 for the first time in ODIs and recording a sparky half-century; and Perera improved his average as captain to 59.25. Crumbs of comfort, then, if not exactly a bread trail towards guaranteed success.
Following a sixth defeat from seven, Sri Lanka are rooted to the bottom of the World Cup Super League and already looked destined to having to scrap it out at the 2022 qualifier against a clutch of highly motivated Associate nations. In that sense, while losing the services of three senior players for an unsanctioned trip into Durham certainly won't help their chances in England, it might help Perera and Mickey Arthur forge a spirit of common purpose that will benefit the team in the long run.
England, by contrast, are top of the table - despite having won only half their games - and will be aiming to ensure they take a full 20 points from the remaining matches at The Oval and Bristol. As in the T20I series, their bowling options were more than enough to keep Sri Lanka in check, even with Hasaranga landing a few blows on Adil Rashid. Chris Woakes confirmed his status as one of England's best bowlers of all time in the 50-over format, while David Willey refuses to be easily discounted, marking his 50th cap with a three-wicket haul.
The batting was scratchier, with Root's cool head required to see England home - and even he gave a half-chance to long leg, which Chameera couldn't cling on to, when the game was in the balance. Eoin Morgan is rarely one to fret about his own form, but extending a run of England white-ball innings without a significant score to 15 counts as a minor headache for the captain.
The bigger picture for England's limited-overs cricket looks impressive, as it has for a while - even if they will currently struggle to knock the footballers off the back pages. But work remains to be done on improving the game's reach, and this Oval match is being branded as the ACE ODI, in recognition of the Afro-Caribbean Engagement Programme, which began at Surrey, opening a third centre in Bristol.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLLL
In the spotlight
It is a mere five innings since Sam Billings recorded his maiden ODI hundred, against Australia at Old Trafford last summer, and coming into this series he said he would be "pretty disappointed" not to be in the side. He also played a mature hand in helping England to win the second T20I in Cardiff last week. But such is the level of competition for white-ball batting spots, with players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler bound to return, he will quickly want to move on from back-to-back single-figures scores.
Pathum Nissanka has been thrown in at the deep end in international cricket this year, making appearances across all three formats with varying success. He became only the fourth Sri Lankan to score a Test century on debut in the Caribbean in March, but the 23-year-old is clearly still finding his way in limited-overs cricket. A watertight first-class technique (he averages 64.45) isn't necessarily a good guide, but might be of help in opening the batting - as he was asked to do in only his seventh ODI at Chester-le-Street.
Pitch and conditions
The Oval tends to serve up excellent (read: batting-friendly) ODI surfaces, with only Trent Bridge producing a higher average and scoring rate among English grounds over the last five years. The forecast is set fair for this day-night game, and the ball is only likely to travel further under lights - all four completed Blast matches at the ground this season being won by the chasing side.
Jason Roy was able to take part in pre-match warm-ups as well as bat in the nets at Chester-le-Street, and could be in contention to return on his home ground; Dawid Malan has left the squad for personal reasons, and Liam Livingstone's first outing as an opener in ODIs did not last too long. Mark Wood only bowled seven overs, so Chris Woakes might be the most likely candidate for workload management among the seamers - despite him clarifying Eoin Morgan's comments during the T20Is that he couldn't play back-to-back games.
England: (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Sam Billings, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes/Tom Curran, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood
Sri Lanka fielded three debutants at Chester-le-Street, who collectively made six runs and bowled three overs - but they may have to rely on the likes of Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya Lakshan and Praveen Jayawickrama again, with Oshada Fernando still unwell and Dhananjaya de Silva facing a late fitness test after a back spasm. Dhananjaya's availability would at least add some experience to the line-up, and allow allrounders Dasun Shanaka and Hasaranga to step down a run after being (over)promoted to the heady heights of Nos. 4 and 5.
Sri Lanka: (possible) 1 Kusal Perera (capt, wk), 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Dasun Shanaka, 6 Wanindu Hasaranga, 7 Dhananjaya Lakshan, 8 Ramesh Mendis, 9 Chamika Karunaratne, 10 Binura Fernando, 11 Dushmantha Chameera
Stats and trivia
- England have not lost an ODI at The Oval since 2015, when they made 365 for 9 batting second against New Zealand but were still narrowly edged out on DLS.
- Sri Lanka have been beaten on four of their last five visits to the ground, including bilateral engagements against England in 2014 and 2016 - but they did chase down 322 against India in the 2017 Champions Trophy.
- Root reached 6000 runs during the first ODI, in his 141st innings - putting him joint-fourth fastest alongside Viv Richards.
"Obviously we should always go on and chase that score, but if you keep losing wickets it becomes difficult. Joe's innings was a very calming influence as usual, to go on and knock that total off as easily as he did."
Chris Woakes presented Root with his 150th ODI cap and was also handing out praise afterwardsKusal PereraJoe RootWanindu Hasaranga de SilvaJason RoySri LankaEnglandEngland vs Sri LankaSri Lanka in EnglandWorld Cup Super League
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick