An impressive half-century from Shefifeld’s in-form batsman Joe Root couldn’t save England from a series-defining defeat against Sri Lanka at the weekend.
And the loss raised more questions about the position ofbeleaguered England skipper Alastair Cook - with Root a possible replacement if his one-day captaincy tenure comes to an end.
England coach Peter Moores still wants Cook as his World Cup captain - but may yet be persuaded otherwise in the coming days as the post-series inquest begins.
Saturday’s victory for Sri Lanka sealed Cook’s fifth successive one-day international series defeat, with the final game getting underway tomorrow.
Moores has responded by voicing his personal faith in Cook, but warning there can be no “guarantee” he will retain the consensus when he consults his three fellow selectors in a series review.
That will come after the final match of this tour, in Colombo, when Cook will have one more opportunity to put a score on the board and reduce the margin of defeat to 4-3, and before England announce a 16-man party to travel to Australia next month for a tri-series against the hosts and India.
The squad will be a World Cup one in all but one name - that of an extra bowler - and must be trimmed to 15 on January 7.
If Cook, already listed as captain in a provisional 30, retains that status on Saturday, all further discussion will surely be redundant.
Moores’ mind, in any case, remains made up, and he said: “For me, I think Alastair’s the right man to move us to the World Cup.
“But ... I’ll go into a room with the other selectors, and we’ll talk about it.
“A lot’s happened over the last six ODIs - a lot of good has happened.
“At the end of every series I’ve been involved in, we’ve always sat down and looked at everything and asked if we are doing the right things - because nobody has a crystal ball to look into the future.
“Alastair has said very clearly that he is very keen to carry on, and wants to remain as captain of England.
“He knows nobody has got the guarantee of that.
“I hear people say someone’s unsackable. That would be a ridiculous comment.
“We’ve got four selectors, and we always pick what we think is the best team - and that will be no different, moving forward.”
Moores added: “I’ve always said the same thing - we’ll always go and review what’s happened, because that’s fair, fair to the captain, fair to the team, fair to the public. It’s fair to the captain, I think, that he needs to know that everything is looked at - and ‘yes, you’re our best man to move forward’.
“Alastair has made it pretty clear he wants to captain England.
“He’s also made it pretty clear that if anybody [tells him] that now isn’t the time any more, he’ll step down.”
The captain apart, a developing England team has made evident strides here - albeit in defeat - with Joe Root and Moeen Ali’s runs, and Chris Woakes’ wickets, especially encouraging.
Moores said: “There is a bit of frustration that the captaincy issue dominates when someone like Joe Root batted really well on Saturday, got a stellar hundred two days before, has had an unbelievable year of being in the top 10 leading Test run-scorers and also has three one-day hundreds.
“We have to recognise those things. I understand that there will always be debate about players who aren’t in form - and the captain gets extra focus.
“That goes with the territory.”
England had no effective answer to Kumar Sangakkara’s 20th century on Saturday, in his last one-day international on his home ground, as they slumped to a series defeat.
Sangakkara was badly dropped by Cook at mid off, on 41 off Ravi Bopara, then proceeded to a virtuoso hundred - in which he shared a second-wicket stand of 153 with Tillakaratne Dilshan (68) at the Pallekele International Stadium.
The consequence, once Sangakkara was done with a run-a-ball 112, was a total of 292 for seven. And despite Root’s 55, they fell well short at 202 all out.