England's decision to field Ben Stokes instead of James Tredwell may have contributed to them going 3-1 down in the series with three to play but they have accepted that there will be some collateral damage as they attempt to settle on their World Cup 15.
Eoin Morgan, England's stand-in captain, conceded that they could have done with Tredwell's offspin when attempting to derail a largely comfortable Sri Lanka chase that was completed with six wicket and two balls to spare. Stokes bowled only two overs at a cost of 21 runs, having made 6 with the bat, and three indifferent performances so far have put his place at the World Cup in jeopardy.
He has bowled eight wicketless overs in the series at a cost of 85 runs and since the Ashes tour, when he made such a positive impression, he has taken just four wickets at 62.75. His only half-century in 24 ODIs also came in Australia. Morgan said the call had been made to stick with Stokes after England's win in Hambantota as part of a long-term view.
"I do agree we did need another spinner," Morgan said. "But again, we've made the decision that we're going to give guys a chance to come out today and prove themselves, on what we knew would be a slower wicket.
"I can see the bigger picture as to why we went down the other route. Ben in particular has been in and out of the side, hasn't really had a run in a while, so to give him that today was to give the selectors a bit more of an idea what Ben's about and what sort of role he can play in the side.
"I thought the conditions were really hard to bowl in. He's a good swing bowler and today you had to take the pace off the ball and bowl it hard into the deck. He was bowling to two in batsmen as well, it was very difficult."
England's run of poor form now reads eight defeats in their last 10 ODIs and Morgan admitted it was proving tricky to strike a balance between performing well in Sri Lanka and preparing for the World Cup.
"I suppose a little bit, because we aren't winning and guys are short on runs, including myself, and we're not performing to our capability. If we were performing and winning, things would be a lot easier," he said. "They have to pick a squad before Christmas, you take guys away on tour so you have to give them a chance, otherwise there's no point in bringing them."
Chris Jordan was the pick of the seamers, taking 2 for 35, and with Chris Woakes the leading wicket-taker for England in the series, Stokes faces competition in the bowling allrounder category. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are expected to return from injury in time for the World Cup and England also have Steven Finn and Harry Gurney to consider.
Although the attack struggled for penetration, they kept the pressure on Sri Lanka until the final over and Morgan felt that the way England's innings feel away with the bat was more costly.
"We were probably about 20-25 short," he said. "We assessed the conditions in the first 25 and the guys who batted, James Taylor in particular said it was getting harder and harder as the ball got older. But we still aimed to get 280-290. We were good in patches but the latter half of our innings wasn't good enough. We didn't manage to keep the momentum going into the last 10-15 overs. So it's disappointing."
Taylor top-scored with 90, batting at No. 3 in only his third ODI, which along with Morgan's first half-century in 11 months was the most encouraging aspect for England. "I thought he was brilliant," Morgan said. "He plays it his own way and he didn't lack any confidence today. Even when the ball was slow and stoppy, he took the spinners on and he persevered. It was great to see. A lot of guys come in and don't take on as much of a senior role and batting at three is quite a big thing, setting up an innings and he did it magnificently well."