by Stephan Shemilt, BBC Sport
England slipped to a third crushing defeat in four World Cup games as Sri Lanka comfortably chased 310 to win by nine wickets in Wellington.
Lahiru Thirimanne hit an unbeaten 139 and Kumar Sangakkara 117 not out to seal victory with 16 balls to spare.
Earlier, Joe Root made 121 as England accelerated late on to post 309-6.
If opening defeats by Australia and New Zealand and victory over Scotland were expected, then this fixture was supposed to be the best indicator of England’s chances of progressing far into the World Cup.
As it turned out, a third one-sided reverse at the hands of Test opposition leaves England clinging to their hopes of reaching the last eight.
But Sri Lanka showed that to be nowhere near enough and England will almost certainly be eliminated if they lose either of their final two games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Indeed, if Bangladesh beat Scotland on Thursday, then England will go out if they lose either of their remaining group games.
While their previous game in Wellington, an eight-wicket thrashing by New Zealand, was humiliating for its rapid nature, this latest loss was perhaps more dispiriting.
England put in their best batting display of the tournament thanks to Root’s accumulation and creativity and Jos Buttler’s late power.
But Thirimanne and Sangakkara made a mockery of the chase as England’s pace-dominated attack struggled to make chances on a sluggish wicket.
When they did create opportunities, they were not taken. Thirimanne was dropped on three by Root at slip, although the edge off Stuart Broad should have been claimed by wicketkeeper Buttler.
The left-hander also had a let-off on 98, Moeen Ali failing to take a low chance in the covers off James Anderson.
After that, Thirimanne, whose innings was laced with classy cover drives, became the fourth Sri Lanka batsman to score a hundred in this World Cup.
He shared an unbroken stand of 212 with Sangakkara, who moved third on the list of World Cup run scorers with a 70-ball century, scoring through 360 degrees.
On the completion of the chase, Sri Lanka – 10-wicket winners against England in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup – became only the second team to overhaul a score of 300 or more with nine wickets in hand.
It also cemented England’s unwanted record of being the least successful of all the Test nations when defending a target in excess of 300.
That Eoin Morgan’s side posted their highest total of the tournament came as a result of 24-year-old Root becoming the youngest England batsman to score a World Cup century.
Given a good start by Ian Bell’s 49, England were pegged back as Sri Lanka’s attack improved by taking pace off the ball, Tillakaratne Dilshan having Gary Ballance caught and bowled to extend the left-hander’s poor sequence to only 36 runs in four innings.
At 101-3 in the 21st over, Root arrived to stabilise the innings with Morgan, with the Yorkshire batsman – dropped on two at slip – then dominating a stand of 98 with James Taylor.
Strong square of the wicket, Root reached a fourth ODI hundred at a run a ball, then accelerated by inventively reverse-sweeping the seamers.
After Root fell, England were pushed past 300 by Buttler. Their total seemed competitive, Thirimanne and Sangakkara proved that it was not.