A side led by stand-in captain Eoin Morgan pushed their hosts all the way in Colombo on Sunday, but Sri Lanka’s success with two balls to spare put them 3-1 up in the seven-match series.
Morgan will revert to his regular deputy’s role in Pallekelle when Alastair Cook returns from the one-match suspension that kept him out at the weekend.
James Taylor took his chance to impress in Cook’s absence, top-scoring with 90 on his first start of the series, and Alex Hales’ place appears most vulnerable in the wake of his first-ball duck on Sunday.
Morgan admitted England had made an error in preferring a fourth seamer to a second spinner in Colombo, and Ben Stokes was given just two overs as his lean series with bat and ball continued.
James Tredwell is an option if Cook and his lieutenants decide another spinner is needed in Pallekelle, although England have so far been content to use Joe Root as back-up to Moeen Ali – the tourists’ most-used bowler to date.
Root, meanwhile, has been relaxing on tour by learning to play the ukulele – a compromise on the guitar he wanted to pack in his kit.
“I wanted to learn the guitar,” the Yorkshire batsman said. “But you can’t really lug it around. If guys want to take golf clubs and stuff it would be a bit selfish of me try to take up space with a guitar – and I can fit the ukulele in my suitcase.
“You can end up spending a lot of time indoors. If it gets dark, you can’t??really play too much golf … so it’s a good way of relaxing, and staying off my??feet.
“I can’t really sing, so I try to make sure I play loud enough so no one can??hear that. It sounds horrendous at the minute. But I hope, one day, it might sound all right.”
Asked about England’s chances of snatching an unlikely series win he said: “There’s no reason why we can’t. I think we’ve shown in every game at some point along the way that we are capable of doing that. The thing for us now is to make sure we put it into one complete performance.
“Now’s the time for us to step up and start putting in performances, and this is a great opportunity for us to do that under pressure before the World Cup,”
Sri Lanka are without their injured spinner Rangana Herath for the next two games, and that means a recall for??Sachithra Senanayake – the off-break bowler who was suspended for a suspect action in the wake of the summer tour of England.
Senanayake topped his side’s bowling averages during a one-day series win and also caused a storm by running out Jos Buttler as the England batsman backed up at the non-striker’s end.
Root said: “If he’s playing, we’ll have to find a way to deal with that. He’s a very good international player, and his stats say that. He’s a big part of their side. If he comes back in, we’ll have to just make sure we’ve got ways of combating him.”
Watch the fifth ODI between Sri Lanka and England live on Sports 2 from 8.30am on Wednesday.