Alastair Cook’s tourists wrote an appropriately miserable post-script for their failed campaign here, bowled out for 215 in 45.5 overs after Dilshan (101) had laid the foundations for another home win to make the final series score 5-2 to Sri Lanka.
Cook has endured a “terrible” time over the past month, on the admission of England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton, and his last attempt went unerringly to script.
After losing the toss, he saw opener Dilshan share half-century stands with Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal (55no) – before big-hitting Thisara Perera (54) weighed in with a 23-ball 50.
Sri Lanka piled up 302 for six and England had to become the first team ever to chase such a total in this country – merely to reduce the nature of their series defeat.
Dilshan (three for 37) undermined them from the outset with the wickets of Moeen Ali, bowled by an arm ball for a golden duck, and Alex Hales – caught at long-on – and only the continued good form of Joe Root (80) saved even more blushes.
Cook had luck on his side for a very scratchy 32, which included only a smattering of well-timed shots between the edges, before Jayawardene took a neat catch at slip off Suranga Lakmal to consign him to his 10th successive ODI innings without a half-century.
He trudged off disconsolately under the floodlights, and soon afterwards James Taylor was gone too – to a very good delivery from Lakmal which took the glove for caught-behind down the leg-side.
Root was timing the ball supremely, while all around him floundered.
He lost his last two frontline allies, Eoin Morgan lbw sweeping at Dilshan and Jos Buttler picking out deep cover off Seekkuge Prasanna (three for 35).
The Yorkshireman’s third consecutive 50 could amount to only token resistance, with so little support forthcoming, but he defied the pain of an apparent wear-and-tear leg injury in a seventh-wicket stand of 66 with Chris Woakes to at least prevent any notion of a record losing margin.
Dilshan, 38, was the architect throughout of England’s troubles.
Of Sri Lanka’s three veteran batsman, it was him who took the lead role – relegating Jayawardene and Sangakkara to bit-parts in their final ODI appearances on home soil.
On a good pitch, the score was 66 after the 10-over powerplay for the loss of Jaywardene – mishooking Harry Gurney to long-leg – and a second-wicket stand of 65 ended when Sangakkara clipped a Moeen full toss into the leg-side ring.
Dilshan was past his 50 by then, having targeted James Tredwell’s first over with blows over the top for 4-4-6 from the final three deliveries.
Tredwell returned as he and the economical Moeen tried to restrict the middle overs, a process which included the wicket of Angelo Mathews.
Sri Lanka’s captain attempted a paddle-sweep and was bowled round his legs, but back-in-form Chandimal rode his luck – escaping two half-chances in the outfield on 15 and 38 – before Dilshan completed his 122-ball hundred.
He reached three figures with two into the off-side off Chris Jordan, and then ran towards the crowd and lapped up their appreciation.
In the same over, he holed out in the leg-side deep off a full toss.
But Chandimal and Perera took over, the latter smashing 45 of a 50 stand off 25 balls for the fifth wicket, as 56 runs were plundered in the last five overs.
England’s prospects of a successful reply were far from obvious.
Within an hour, they had receded towards the apparently non-existent – and it was down to Root to supply the damage limitation, until he was lbw trying to reverse-sweep Prasanna.
That hastened a swift decline, Tredwell donating an apt final wicket – stumped Sangakkara, bowled Jayawardene, as the pair signed off in front of their adoring crowd.