England skipper Alastair Cook admitted his side were outplayed as Sri Lanka took an unassailable 4-2 lead in the one-day international series.
Cook’s side fell to a 90-run defeat after Kumar Sangakkara starred on his final appearance at his home ground in Kandy, making a match-winning 112 as Sri Lanka piled on 292 for seven.
Despite a fighting knock of 55 from Joe Root, England suffered regular setbacks in the chase and were eventually bowled out for 202 in the 42nd over, with Suranga Lakmal taking 4-30 for the hosts.
The captain admitted that the game could have been different had he held on to a catch offered by 37-year-old Sangakkara early in his innings, but he could not argue with the result.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, Cook said: “Sri Lanka were a considerably better side than we were today.
“Kumar Sangakkara is a great player and it was probably written somewhere that on his last game at his home ground he would score a hundred, so full credit to him and his career but we’re pretty disappointed.
“I think we did some good stuff in the first 20 overs. The big turning point was when I dropped ‘Sanga’ on 40-odd because that was a combination of building up quite a lot of pressure on those two (Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan) and it would have changed the game a lot.”
He added: “With the bat it was a tough wicket, especially as you know you can’t get too far behind the rate but a lot of the dismissals were down to some genuinely good balls flying around.”
However, despite the loss which leaves England unable to catch Sri Lanka in the seven-match series, Cook felt there was still plenty to play for in Tuesday’s finale.
“I still think we’ve taken some strides forward with our one-day game on this tour; we haven’t shown it today but 4-3 sounds a lot better than 5-2,” Cook said.
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Head Coach Peter Moores also said there were still some positives to take from the performance despite conceding that they came off second best.
As it did with Cook, the bowling performance impressed Moores, who told Sky Sports 2: “We felt we could draw the series level today but we’ve been outplayed in all departments.
“We probably bowled our best up front. Towards the end our plans have to be a bit clearer, a bit simpler. Not just bowling yorkers but matching the ball you bowl to the field you’ve got, although the yorker is still a great ball if you bowl it well.
“We made some errors and didn’t field as well as we could have.”
Sangakkara added: “It’s great to have grown up in Kandy and gone to school here…to play one of my last games here is a special feeling.
“I’ve had a wonderful career and it’s extra special to finish off with a win.”
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