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England slip to nine-run loss
England were unable to pull off a second successive chase against Twenty20 world champions Sri Lanka, and succumbed to a nine-run defeat in the one-off NatWest international at The Oval.
The high point of England's otherwise unsuccessful ICC World Twenty20 trip to Bangladesh two months ago came when Alex Hales' unbeaten hundred inspired them to victory over Sri Lanka in a Chittagong group match - the only defeat of the entire campaign for their opponents.
But as England's new regime seeks early momentum, following their post-Ashes management reshuffle, Tuesday was not quite the night - despite Hales' best efforts again with 66 at the top of the order.
In feasible but testing pursuit 183 for seven - in which Thisara Perera rode his luck to top-score for the tourists with 49 from 20 balls - Hales kept England just about in it until he went to Lasith Malinga (three for 28) in the 17th over.
England had restricted the tourists effectively, for the most part, after Eoin Morgan chose to bowl on a cloudy evening - with Twenty20 debutant seamer Harry Gurney the pick of the attack.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kusal Perera threatened to give Sri Lanka a flying start, but the six-over powerplay was marginally England's thanks to the wickets of both openers with the score on 24.
Gurney's first international victim, in his second match, was a notable one in Dilshan and was the result of an outstanding piece of bowling - the left-armer beating the batsman on the back foot to clip the off bail.
Kusal was a little unlucky, picking up the length to pull Chris Jordan fiecely but straight to Ravi Bopara at short fine leg.
Twenty20 debutant Kithuruwan Vithanage gave notice of his significant talent, dominating a half-century stand with Lahiru Thirimanne.
But again Sri Lanka were to forfeit momentum via two quick wickets.
Vithanage cut Chris Woakes straight into the hands of deep point; then new batsman Dinesh Chandimal, who had just hit Joe Root for six over midwicket, got underneath another attempted big hit and was caught at deep mid-on.
Jos Buttler's slip, when perfect glovework might have given him a chance of stumping Vithanage, was not costly - but Jordan's failure to hold a tough chance at point off a Woakes full toss was more so, with Thirimanne on only 14 on his way to an eventual 40.
There were two more half-chances to get rid of Thirimanne until he clubbed a Gurney full toss to deep midwicket.
England's most obvious blemish, though, was a mix-up between Michael Carberry and Morgan - both going for the same skier in the covers off a Gurney slower ball, and neither able to hold on as the dangerous Thisara was reprieved on 20.
The big left-hander went on to punish the opposition, with 22 runs from Jordan's final five deliveries - a telling barrage which England could never quite haul back.
Their chase did not get off to a promising start, when Carberry skewered a catch down to a diving Nuwan Kulasekara at third man off Angelo Mathews.
Ian Bell, back in this format for the first time in more than three years, was dropped at slip off Malinga only to hole out in the covers two balls later.
Root could not get started, before edging Suranga Lakmal behind down the leg side.
It was therefore over to the heroes of Chittagong, Hales and Morgan.
This time the Irishman could not play a major hand - chipping Thisara to Lakmal, tumbling in at long off.
But Hales was on a mission again, becoming only the third England batsman to reach 1,000 Twenty20 international runs en route to a 33-ball half-century which contained six fours and a six.
Buttler lent support until he mistimed a Kulasekara full toss into the leg-side deep - and after Malinga returned to bowl Hales with a fine delivery, even with a late dash from Bopara, England were just short of the firepower they needed to nick the spoils.